Shoulder fatigue shuts down Reds' Chapman
SEP 11, 2012 6:29p ET
But when you are Aroldis Chapman and the reading says "94" and "95," it is time to call the press box and ask, "What's wrong with the radar gun?"
Unfortunately for Chapman and the Cincinnati Reds, there is nothing wrong with the radar gun. There is something wrong with Chapman's shoulder.
The Reds are calling it shoulder fatigue, and rest has been prescribed for the 24-year-old left-handed closer.
"Five days or a week and I'll be OK," Chapman said through translator/trainer Tomas Vera.
When the season began, Chapman's fastball hit triple digits, above 100 mph, nearly every time. By midseason, it was down to 97 and 98.
But he kept striking out hitters and kept annexing saves, a club-record 27 straight after he blew one on June 24. Along the way, he has struck out 119 in 67 2/3 innings and people were talking about a possible Cy Young Award and the Fireman of the Year award for sure.
Then, pitching the ninth inning on Sept. 7 against the 96-loss Houston Astros, asked to protect a 3-2 lead, he gave up two singles and a three-run home run to rookie Matt Dominguez, his second career home run.
And his velocity was at 95 and 96.
On Monday, Chapman came into a tie game, 3-3, in the 10th inning against Pittsburgh. He walked the bases loaded and was removed from the game with two outs in the 10th.
His velocity was down to 93 and 94.
After the game, manager Dusty Baker said, "Are we concerned? Yes, it is worrisome. His velocity is down. We've had him checked, and our doctor and trainers tell us it is shoulder fatigue."
Chapman said there is no pain, but he knows his speed is down and that he can't reach back for extra when he needs it.
"A little fatigue for I know I haven't been myself for a couple of games," he said. "I feel weak. But there is nothing wrong. I just feel tired and weak."
Chapman said it is nothing new. "It has happened before, but it happens to every pitcher. At some point, every pitcher gets fatigued."
It isn't the innings Chapman has pitched, because he was a starting pitcher with the Cuban national team and he was a starter in the Reds minor league system. But he has made 64 appearances this season, most of them under pressure situations.
Chapman said his loss of command is more disconcerting than the loss of speed and said, "The fatigue affects not only speed, but muscle control and everything goes off."
Vera probably offered the best quote at the end of the interview when he said, as digital recorders and cameras clicked off: "Don't worry, guys. He is going to be all right."
Baker said it is the command that bothers him more than speed reduction, because before Monday's three walks Chapman had walked only 17 in his first 67 innings.
"Nobody goes to the mound with the same velocity all the time," he said. "We're lucky we got him to this point. When a guy throws 102 miles an hour, he is going to fatigue sooner or later. He is reaching a plateau he hasn't reached before. This is another step to learning how to be a closer and learning how to work away from the field to maintain his strength.
"What is happening is that Aroldis is growing, growing into the closer's role and growing into the workload," Baker added. "We've monitored him about as close as you can monitor him. He is still learning the role. We want him for the next six weeks, hopefully, and we need to stop this fatigue right now."
So who steps into the closer's role during Chapman's absence?
" Jonathan Broxton is the No. 1 candidate, but it is a matchup, too," Baker said. "If they had three left-handers coming up, it could be (lefty) Sean Marshall. It could be Jose Arredondo or J.J. Hoover."
But Broxton has closer experience with the Los Angeles Dodgers and with the Kansas City Royals, from whom the Reds acquired him at the nonwaiver trade deadline.
"Yeah, he's our No. 1 choice," Baker said. "But we try to limit him to two days in a row. When we got him, we said this is the luxury we now have — two guys who can close."
Baker, though, will count the days until he can press a button and turn the Cuban Missile loose once again.