Saturday, March 16, 2013

Controversy brewing in Reds camp as Aroldis Chapman says he wants to close

The intrigue surrounding Aroldis Chapman this spring grew a little more on Saturday as Chapman admitted his preference to close rather than start.

“Truthfully, I would like to be a closer but that’s not in my hands," said the southpaw after his outing against the Brewers.

His preference to close falls in line with the same opinion of skipper Dusty Baker. However, it goes against the wishes of GM Walt Jocketty and pitching coach Bryan Price, who both would like to see the Cuban native serve as a starter.

Chapman cited the excitement of finishing games as one reason why he prefers pitching in relief.

“In the beginning when I started closing, it was something I didn’t know about,” he said. “But as I started throwing and getting into the late part of the game — when the game is more exciting — I kind of liked it. The adrenaline goes up. I would like to be in that situation. But that’s something I can’t control.”

Baker said earlier this week that he wanted to make a decision on Chapman's role in the near future. Chapman would like to know what is expected of him soon, as well.

“Yeah, I want to concentrate on whatever they want me to do,” he said. “So, I sit down and wait for their decision.”

Baker said he was happy to hear that his pitcher had finally spoke up.

“I was going to talk to him after he pitched today for that purpose,” Baker said after the game. “You hear all kinds of stuff from this camp, people talking and everybody thinks they’re in the know.

“We were going to do what’s best for the organization and for him. But he makes it a lot easier when you get the person’s blessing.”

The 25-year-old thrived in the closer role last season as evidenced by his tidy 1.51 ERA, whopping 15.3 SO/9, and 38 saves. He appeared in 68 games and tossed 71.2 innings en route to an All-Star nod and 12th-place finish in the National League MVP Award voting.

Chapman is currently preparing this spring as if he will be part of the starting rotation during the regular season. Mike Leake is also preparing to be a starter in 2013, but only one of them will wind up cracking the rotation once camp breaks.

Jonathan Broxton is slated to handle the closing duties (for now) after the Reds re-signed the right-hander to a 3-year, $20 million deal over the winter.

Via John Fay/Mark Sheldon

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