CINCINNATI — The once nearly impenetrable Cincinnati Reds bullpen suddenly has sprung more leaks than a colander, particularly in the critical eighth inning, so the constituents in the stands are asking: “Why not use closer Aroldis Chapman in the eighth and ninth?”
It is not going to happen — no discussion, no debate, no but, but, but, buts.
Manager Dusty Baker is as adamant about his stance on this subject as a pit bull guarding his kibbles.
“Why do people want me to go against what is happening in baseball these days?” said Baker. “The days of Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage and Dave Righetti having two-inning saves, those guys are gone.”
Baker said the requirements for a closer to go two innings these days are possession of a rubber arm and the ability to get loose rapidly in the bullpen.
Chapman possesses neither.
“Chapman has a big ritual that he goes through before he is ready,” Baker added. “He is like a high-priced sports car that takes a long time to warm up. I can just jump in my little truck and be gone, but this guy has 12 cyclinders to loosen up and get ready. It takes time.”
Of the fans desires to see Chapman in the eighth, Baker said, “We’re not playing fantasy baseball and we’re not playing Strat-o-matic baseball where you can just plug somebody in and say, ‘Boom, OK, let’s do it.’ It doesn’t work that way. We’re dealing with people.”
Baker worries about overworking and overburdening the 25-year-old left handed Cuban defector with the golden arm and the blink-your-eye and you miss it fastball.
Baker went through this mess before when he managed the Chicago Cubs and was wrongfully accused of ruining the arms of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior due to overuse.
“If something happens to this guy and we overwork him and he gets hurt, God forbid — well, I’ve been tarred and feathered a couple times for that (Wood, Prior) already and I didn’t like that.
“So I’m doing the best I can to protect him and again, I repeat, everybody else has to do their job in the bullpen,” Baker added.
With left-hander Sean Marshall out for the second time with arm problems, the bullpen of Sam LeCure, Alfredo Simon, Curtis Partch, J.J. Hoover, Manny Parra and Jonathan Broxton need to step it up.
So far, so bad — especially for starter Mat Latos, who is 6-0 but has had five saves blown in games during which he turned over leads to the bullpen.
“I hate blowing these games late and the guys hate it,” said Baker. “You don’t think guys like Sam LeCure and Jonathan Broxton feel like crap for blowing saves?”
Baker said there are two solutions — the bullpen needs to patch the leaks or the team needs to go searching for outside help.
“We have to figure out a way for our other bullpen guys to get back to quality, to do what is their job, or we have to get out and get somebody to help us. (General manager Walt Jocketty) is exploring that but it is tough. With two wild-card teams in each league now there are a whole bunch of teams still in the race and not willing to deal.”
The Reds did sign left-hander Zach Duke this week to a minor-league contract so Jocketty is trying to seal the leaks.
“We just have to figure out a way to bridge the gap and get to Chapman,” Baker said.
“I mean, I even had a buddy who played baseball call me the other day and say, ‘You’ve blown three games in five days and you have to stop giving ‘em up,’” said Baker. “I said, like, ‘No kidding? Really?’”
On Chapman, Baker added, “You can quit asking me. I’m not going to use Chapman in the eighth inning. It’s too early in the season. If something happens to Chapman then you’re stuck with people you want to stay away from.
“If you use Chapman for two innings then you can’t use him for a couple of days and what happens when you get on a streak where you have to use your closer two or three days in a row?” Baker asked. “If it is later, in September, well then you think differently. But Chapman also takes longer to get loose in the bullpen and when it looks as if you might need him in the eighth you have to start warming him up in the seventh. We don’t have the luxury of having that much time. And then if you don’t use him, you waste him.”
So close that possible chapter, tear out the pages — there will be no Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning for the near future.