As Price settles in, Chapman's role unclear
Still crafting wardrobe, new manager not saying whether closer will start
CINCINNATI -- Last winter and at Spring Training, Bryan Price, then the Reds' pitching coach, was a big proponent of moving closer Aroldis Chapman into the starting rotation.
Chapman prepared himself to be a starter but preferred to remain a closer. Ultimately, the left-hander with triple-digit velocity remained in the bullpen.
The issue could be revisited now that Price is the Reds' manager.
"I don't mean this to be glib, but I've really thought about getting a good suit before I got up here as opposed to trying to figure out what we're going to do necessarily with the club," Price said Tuesday during his introductory news conference.
"In regards to Aroldis, I was on record last Spring Training that pitchers get better throwing innings, especially pitchers that don't have a lot of innings under their belt or pitchers that struggle to throw strikes or throw their secondary pitches over the plate. I haven't changed that philosophy. That being said, we're going to put the best team on the field and put people in the best positions to be successful, and we'll make that decision as we go forward in Spring Training."
Cincinnati's rotation is expected to return with mainstays Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake. Following a solid rookie season, Tony Cingrani is a good bet to replace free agent Bronson Arroyo. But adding Chapman's stuff to that mix remains intriguing.
In 68 games this season, the 25-year-old Chapman was 4-5 with a 2.54 ERA, and his 38 saves in 43 chances matched his totals from 2012. He is a two-time National League All-Star.
After Chapman defected from Cuba in 2009, the Reds signed him to a six-year, $30 million contract in January 2010 with the anticipation he would become a front-line starting pitcher. Plans changed when Chapman was used as a setup man during his rookie season. A setup man again in 2011, Chapman became the closer in the midst of the 2012 season when he replaced Sean Marshall.
Chapman has been steadfast all year that he wants to remain a closer. But the Reds could most likely get more value from him in the rotation. First-year eligible for arbitration, his $3 million salary for 2014 can be converted to bonus money in lieu of the result.
"My question in Spring Training was how do you know what Chapman can do until you give him that opportunity to do it?" Price said. "I don't want to say it's an open-ended question. I don't have a concrete answer for you.
"The same risk-reward is there, trying to figure out is he capable of going out there and being that type of guy. We won't answer that question unless he does it. The same thought is we have a really good closer as well and a guy that has gotten used to that culture. It's going to be something we to juggle with a little bit. We'll have an answer to that."