LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For the second time in less than 24 hours, Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman couldn’t finish an inning during a rehab appearance for the Louisville Bats, the team’s Triple-A affiliate.
Chapman had better command of his pitches on Wednesday but still gave up three runs on three hits with one walk and one strikeout during Louisville’s 8-6 win against the Norfolk Tides.
After starting Tuesday night’s game and failing to get out of the first inning, Chapman entered Wednesday’s afternoon game with the Bats leading the Orioles’ Triple-A club 8-3 in the ninth inning at Louisville Slugger Field. He was taken out after 21 pitches, replaced by Jumbo Diaz as the Bats held on for the two-run win.
After giving up a solid single to right field to Alexi Casilla to lead off the inning, Chapman struck out Julio Borbon swinging. The Reds lefty then walked Ivan DeJesus after not getting called strike threes on two close pitches before Cord Phelps and Brett Wallace flared hits to right and left field, respectively, to bring Chapman’s day to an end.
Chapman’s two-game totals in Louisville aren’t pretty. He threw 54 pitches against 13 batters, allowing eight runs on seven hits with two strikeouts and two walks for a 72.00 ERA.
They are numbers the Reds will throw out the window when it comes time to decide when to activate Chapman off the disabled list. No timetable has been set for his return to the Reds or if he’ll make any more minor-league rehab appearances. Wednesday was Chapman’s fourth rehab appearance in seven days, and his first on back-to-back days.
Chapman didn’t speak to media after Wednesday’s game. He did speak on Tuesday, saying he felt physically and mentally ready to go back to the major leagues whenever the Reds make that decision. He said, through interpreter Rigo Febles, that after he was struck in the face with a line drive off the bat of Kansas City’s Salvador Perez on March 19 in a spring training game, he thought about the possibility that he might not pitch again this season.
Since starting the rehab process and getting back on top of the mound Chapman’s been patient with the process and he knows he’s close to returning.
Louisville catcher Corky Miller has no doubt Chapman will be good to go once he gets the call from the Reds.
"Back-to-back days is big. He’s not in the big leagues, closing in the ninth inning. That’s a factor that will help him and always has," Miller said.
"His mentality, like I said, he gets that extra gear when the game is on the line, the lights are on and the stadium is full. He always has, ever since he got to the big leagues. He thrives on that and sometimes you need that. You come out here, a 6:30 game in Louisville, it’s a little different."
Chapman’s fastball was routinely clocked in the upper 90’s by the stadium’s radar gun, with at least four pitches topping 100 mph.
Miller, Louisville manager Jim Riggleman and pitching coach Ted Power all credited Norfolk’s hitters for their approaches against Chapman. They didn’t do much chasing of pitches outside the zone and fouled off a number of pitches to keep at-bats alive in both games.
There was some uncertainty whether or not Chapman would pitch Wednesday after throwing 33 pitches Tuesday. When he arrived at the stadium, Chapman spoke with Riggleman and Powers and said he was ready to pitch.
"He said he was raring to go and he wanted the ninth inning so that’s the way we played it," Riggleman said. "He was free and easy.
"Really my assessment is about Norfolk. They had great at-bats. I give them a lot of credit. Anybody who is throwing 97 to 101, you get that good of an at-bat, you’ve got to give them credit."
Miller was in the bullpen in Surprise, Ariz., when Chapman was injured in March. It hasn’t yet been two months since the injury or subsequent surgery.
Miller has been in the Cincinnati organization since 1998, including playing 153 of his 216 career major-league games with the Reds over parts of seven seasons. He is three games from becoming the Louisville franchise leader in games played.
Miller, who caught Chapman in 2010 when the lefty first came to the organization after defecting from Cuba and was being groomed to be a starting pitcher, has a pretty good perspective on Chapman.
"Even if you don’t look at that (injury), if you take that away, what he’s had to do to get to this point anyway is amazing," Miller said. "He struggled down here when he was a starter.
"Whether (defecting) was worth it for him or not, he got over here and he’s done what he’s had to do to get to the major leagues and he’s proven himself as an elite closer. There’s nothing that I don’t think he can’t overcome."