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Chapman near perfect in first spring training start for Reds
Friday, March 01, 2013 10:00 AM
GETTING STARTED: Aroldis Chapman, one of the top closers in Major League Baseball last season when he was forced into the Cincinnati bullpen due to preseason injuries to the Reds projected closer, started and worked two innings while pursuing his latest conversion to a starter’s role with the Reds Thursday against the Colorado Rockies in a spring training game at Scottsdale Ariz. Chapman retired all six batters he faced, fanning one, with a fastball that topped out at 94 mph. (AP photo)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Cincinnati's project to turn hard-throwing Aroldis Chapman into a starter got off to a near-perfect start Thursday in the split squad Reds' 4-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
"No. Nothing different," said Chapman through a translator after a spring debut in which he hit 94 mph with his fastball. "I tried to do things as before (as a reliever). Throw hard and look for spots."
Chapman has 16 starts in the minors but was derailed by injuries when he tried to make the conversion to starter last spring. He has never started a major league games in his three seasons but seemed comfortable in the role.
He started and faced the minimum six batters in two innings. Chapman threw 19 pitches, struck out one and didn't allow the ball out of the infield. Chapman went 5-5 out of the bullpen last season with 38 saves and 122 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings.
Chapman said he was happy with the outing because it gave him a chance to work on some pitches, particularly his change-up. He used it to get his lone strikeout after Ramon Hernandez fouled off four fastballs.
"I'm preparing a little different," said Chapman. "As starter you got to be out there long, so I am doing more running and lifting."
Devin Mesoraco hit a two-run single for the Reds to break a 1-1 tie in the seventh. Colorado retook the lead in the bottom half on an error.
Nolan Arenado and DJ LeMahieu had RBI doubles for the Rockies, who turned an around-the-horn triple play to end the fifth.
Juan Nicasio worked two hitless innings with a pair of strikeouts for Colorado and Jeff Francis pitched three innings, allowing one hit with a strikeout. Both figured to be in new manager Walt Weiss' pitching rotation.
"Realy quality outings by both," said Rockies pitching coach Jim Wright. "Particularly Juan. His slider was sharp and he had good location. Both guys got some work doing what they do best and what they wanted to work on."
Meanwhile, Arizona's Gerado Parra and Willie Bloomquist are ready for the World Baseball Classic and Cincinnati's Joey Votto is close to his decision.
Parra, who will play for Venezuela in the WBC, drove in three runs and threw out a base runner Thursday, leading the Diamondbacks to a 6-5 victory over the Reds.
Bloomquist, who is on the U.S. roster, had three hits, including a double, and drove in a run.
The Reds built a 4-1 lead against starter Ian Kennedy and left-handed prospect Tyler Skaggs. Parra and Bloomquist helped put the Diamondbacks on top.
Votto will seek advice from Reds general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker about his WBC participation. He was given a spot on Canada's team, but isn't sure whether he will play. Votto missed 48 games last season because of torn knee cartilage and has looked good so far during spring training. The former NL MVP walked and scored in three plate appearances Thursday.
"It is difficult for me to commit because I've never been injured before," Votto said. "The reason I've hesitated is I want to make sure I'm comfortable playing and feeling good physically. I don't want something to interrupt the process that I need to go through to get ready for the regular season, which is my No. 1 priority."
Baker sees no reason why Votto can't play for the Canadian team that will train in Goodyear.
"If he asked me, I'd say yes," Baker said. "There is a lot of national pride playing for your country. As far as baseball's concerned, Joey is one of the national treasures of Canada."
The Reds denied starter Johnny Cueto's request to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the WBC, out of concern for his health. Cueto pulled muscles in his side during the playoffs last year, ending his season. Baker has seen nothing from Votto that would give him reason for concern about his knee.
"He looks good to me," Baker said. "I haven't seen any limp or anything."
Parra batted leadoff in 38 games for the Diamondbacks last season, but was in the third spot against Cincinnati - a place that manager Kirk Gibson thinks is suited for him.
"Hitting third is a productive place," Gibson said. "You may have to get on. A guy can run the bases, steal and drive guys in. You like to see guys drive the ball in the gap and hit it out occasionally. He's led off for us. Today he balanced the lineup, left-right, left-right."
Cincinnati opened its competition for the fifth spot in the rotation. Right-hander Mike Leake, trying to retain his spot, pitched two innings, allowing a run on two hits.
"Leake looked real good," Baker said. "It looked like he was working on his change-up. He was locating his fastball well. He had good tempo and kept the ball down."
NOTES: The Reds got two outstanding defensive plays against the Rockies: SS Zack Cozart's diving stop robbed LeMahieu of hit, and Billy Hamilton's leaping catch took away a potential homer by Charlie Cuberson.
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