Reds taking their time with Chapman
Left-hander getting used to different routine as a pro
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds want Aroldis Chapman to pitch every five days against big league hitters in big league ballparks across the United States.
When the club will get what it wants is the question.
"I don't think there is a timetable," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said Monday in a session where Chapman also addressed the media through a translator. "We'll find out as we go along. We really don't know what he is capable of doing other than [from what we see] watching him throw on the mound. Obviously, he has the ability, but until he gets into a game and starts facing hitters, we don't know if he's ready now or needs some time."
Chapman threw a bullpen side session Monday, his third since the start of Spring Training, and is on track to face live hitters Wednesday and Saturday. He could need another bullpen session before the Reds will put him into a game.
"[I try] to prepare myself the best that I can, to work extremely hard and when it's time for me to pitch, get the job done," Chapman said. "If they feel I can make the club, fine. If not, I will continue to work hard until that happens."The young left-hander is known for his fastball, but he also throws a slider, changeup and two-seamer (sinker). All of his pitches have been on display during the past five days.
"Obviously, the sooner he gets to Cincinnati, the better for us, but we are not going to rush him," Jocketty said. "We are going to do it the right way and make sure that when he is ready he can help us long term."
Chapman faces stiff competition.
The Reds have four spots in the rotation set with Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey. Micah Owings, Matt Maloney, Travis Wood, Mike Lincoln and Justin Lehr are all competing for the final spot in the rotation. Chapman could join the mix, but until he pitches against live hitting and in games, the Reds cannot determine where he belongs -- or at least where begins the regular season.
"When is he going to be there? We don't know. What's our rotation going to look like by the time he gets there? We don't know," Reds pitching coach Bryan Price said. "But my feeling is that he is going to be one of five talented starters in our rotation, and that's exciting to me."
Perhaps Chapman starts the season in the Minor Leagues. The Reds want the young Cuban to feel comfortable in his surroundings and they feel his assimilation into the organization is an important part of his development.
The club is doing its part to make Chapman feel at home. Players have embraced him and even cook for him at times. Class A pitching coach Tony Fossas is serving as his personal pitching coach/guardian.
"With the players we have here, they have been very good with him and making him feel comfortable," Jocketty said. "Once he starts making progress in that direction, I think the baseball part of it will come very quickly."
So far the transition has been a smooth one. The club is aware that Chapman is accustomed to pitching year-round and has his own routine, so it has been slowly integrating the Reds' system.
"We are going to get into a routine, it's what we do here," Price said. "But I'm not going to limit the things that have made him successful to this point. I don't what to strip him of the things that he learned in Cuba, although we do need to integrate some of the things that we do here."
In Cuba, Chapman's workouts in between starts consisted of throwing on flat ground and long-toss. In the U.S., he will have to get used to throwing bullpens and the challenges of pitching in a five-man rotation.
"The main thing we have to be aware of his overwork, or underwork," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Much like Japanese pitchers, they throw a lot. Then when they come here, we tend to back them off and not throw sometimes enough."
The throwing is not a problem. Chapman is young, strong and has only been pitching for five years. The Reds are optimistic he will be prepared to take the ball every five days at the start of the season.
"Until you get to pro ball, nobody is on a five-day plan," Price said. "All of the young kids are getting acclimated to it and I don't think it will be a problem. He's not a guy that is bucking at anything. He wants the information and he wants to fit in."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.