Chapman electrifying in dominant debut
Strikes out first batter in 1-2-3 eighth; touches 102 mph
CINCINNATI -- The fans who couldn't find space on the walkway overlooking the Cincinnati bullpen lined the railing of the steps adjacent to it.
Many had their cell phones out, snapping photos of the next Reds reliever. They acted as if they'd never seen a pitcher capable of reaching 105 mph on the radar gun.
And if they hadn't seen Aroldis Chapman pitch before Tuesday night, this was their first time.
Chapman, the 22-year-old Cuban left-hander recalled from Triple-A Louisville earlier in the day, entered Cincinnati's game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park in the eighth inning with the Reds holding a comfortable 8-3 lead on their way to an 8-4 win. Flashbulbs popped all over the ballpark as he delivered strikes one and two to rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
The first pitch registered 98 mph on the radar counter in left-center field. The third hit 102 and was fouled off. The fourth was an 86-mph breaking ball, and Lucroy flailed for strike three -- Chapman's first Major League strikeout.
Chapman said after the game that he was nervous. He didn't look it.
"To be my first time, of course I was nervous," he said after the game through interpreter Tomas Vera. "I think that's a normal situation. It was pretty exciting for me to come in tonight."
"He was deceptive, throws hard and has a good slider," Lucroy said. "He kind of hides it. I was just trying to have a good at-bat. I knew it was going to happen as he was coming in. Everybody knew they were going to make a big deal about it because he's supposed to be the next phenom or whatever. I was just tuning it all out and focusing on having a good at-bat, and I swung at a couple of bad pitches. I got myself out."
"The crowd liked it," Milwaukee manager Ken Macha said. "One hundred and two -- I'm sure that's going to be on SportsCenter."
Chapman coaxed veteran shortstop Craig Counsell to ground out on another 102-mph pitch. Pinch-hitter Carlos Gomez grounded weakly to second base to end the first big league inning for Chapman, who left the game for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the frame.
Reds manager Dusty Baker was as impressed with Chapman's post-debut demeanor as he was with the rookie's pitching.
"After he came off the field, he barely cracked a smile until he sat down," Baker said. "Aw, that was a wonderful debut. The people expected it, and they got what they heard about and read about. I'll tell you, when that radar gun hit 100, people went crazy. The big thing is he was throwing strikes. That was the big thing earlier in the year.
"That was a heck of a debut, boy. That was outstanding."
Mark Schmetzer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.