Good grades thus far for Reds rookie Aroldis Chapman
Friday, Jan. 29, 2010 - 8:55 a.m. ET
Cuban lefthander Aroldis Chapman is proving to be a quick learner.
Working with new Reds pitching coach Bryan Price in Arizona, Chapman already has shown noticeable improvement with his curveball.
"He made an adjustment with his hand on top and learned it very quickly," Reds manager Dusty Baker says. "Bryan said his breaking ball was a lot better than what he had seen on TV. His changeup was outstanding, as well. He rarely threw it in international ball because he said a lot of guys sit on changeups and breaking balls. That's an adjustment he'll face here."
The Reds surprised many when they signed Chapman, 21, to a six-year, $30.25 million deal earlier this month. Chapman has a major league fastball and is "a tremendous athlete with a great pitching body," according to Price, but the Reds insist they won't rush him.
"We have to take the money out of the equation," Baker says. "We have to do what is best for the young man."
The Reds will be watching his workload. Chapman told Price that he would have "like a week off" all year sometimes. "Bryan says he's probably ahead of most of the pitchers on our team except the ones who played winter ball," Baker says.
Adjusting to life off the field will be as challenging as facing major league hitters. Being that young, being separated from his family and becoming rich overnight would take anyone some getting used to. "Imagine how you were at 21 years old if all of a sudden you get millions," Baker says.
Chapman will get some chances at the major league level during spring training, and his performance will determine where he begins the season. "We're not saying he's on the club, we're not saying he's necessarily going to the minor leagues," Baker says. "A lot of that depends on what he shows."
Baker is making changes, too. On his flight from California to Cincinnati on Tuesday, he was re-reading a couple of books about Cuban baseball players that had been given to him by the late Preston Gomez, the legendary Cuban-born major league player and manager. Baker, who speaks Spanish, says, "I want to renew my knowledge so we can have something to talk about."