Reds' Plan A for Chapman becomes Plan B once more

USA TODAY Sports

In the annals of experimentation, the Cincinnati Reds' experiment with Aroldis Chapman as a starting pitcher will not go down in the annals of experimentation. Because ... well, here's Paul Daugherty:

Barring a significant change of minds, the Reds are expected to announce today that Aroldis Chapman will close. All together now:

Bad decision

The question to be posed: What happened to the plan?

Why did the Cincinnati Reds spend $21 million on Jonathan Broxton to pitch the eighth? You're already spending big bucks on a setup guy, Sean Marshall.

You know how many innings Chapman has pitched this spring in official exhibition games?

Eight.

He didn't pitch all that well in those eight innings, walking four and striking out four.

Still. Eight.

This decision seems to have been made largely because a) Chapman doesn't want to start, and b) Dusty Baker doesn't want Chapman to start. But maybe also because of those four strikeouts. Last year in his first eight regular-season innings, Chapman struck out 15. Last year in his last eight regular-season innings, Chapman struck out nine. So watching Chapman strike out four batters in his first eight spring-training innings must have been alarming.

There have been other innings. Early last week, Chapman and a teammate each pitched three innings against minor leaguers. John Fay was there:

I asked a scout how hard Chapman was throwing.

"He’s touching 94," the scout said, "with breaking stuff that’s occasionally over the plate. The other guy’s at 91. The guy who throws strikes. I guess you know what side of the argument I’m on."

The "other guy" was Mike Leake, who figures to get the starter's slot that Chapman is vacating. Mike Leake does throw strikes. He also doesn't throw many strikeouts, while throwing many home runs. Which is why he's essentially a league-average starting pitcher. League-average starting pitchers are quite valuable if you don't have someone better.

Management was trying to have someone better. But when the someone and the someone's manager aren't aboard, it's tough. Especially when the someone drew some Cy Young support last year as a closer.

When the Cincinnati Red signed Aroldis Chapman, they signed him as a starter. They signed him for six years and $30 million as a starter. We're now three years into that six-year contract, and Chapman has started the grand total of zero regular-season games. The bad news is that Plan A hasn't worked; in fact, it now hasn't worked two or three times. The good news is that the Reds will, if Chapman's reasonably healthy over the next three seasons, get their money's worth on Plan B.

For more about Chapman and the Reds, please visit Red Reporter.

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