GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Everybody is assuming that Aroldis Chapman is in the Cincinnati Reds rotation, no longer a closer.
As former manager Jerry Narron used to say about things, when it comes to Chapman being in the rotation this year, “It isn’t written in cee-ment.”
Manager Dusty Baker emphasized that point Saturday morning when somebody said, “Your rotation was good last year, but you’re still making the move with Chapman. . .”
At that point, Baker interrupted and said, “Maybe. That’s a maybe. It’s the same situation as last year. We started with Chapman as a starter. Then Ryan Madson (closer) went down. We had no clue Chapman would be as good as he is as a closer. I don’t think anybody did.
We didn’t know if he was going to throw enough strikes,” Baker added. “We put him in a set-up role, going two innings, because he was groomed in spring training to be a starter and that helped him to get his control. So, right now, we’re in the same boat — trying to get him multiple innings in case he doesn’t start he can still be sharp.”
While most people are shuffling Mike Leake out of the rotation, Baker isn’t having it right now.
“It’s kind of tough the way we had a shutdown bullpen last year the way we had guys lined up (with Chapman on the back end),” Baker added.
Asked if it was a risk to mess with Chapman’s success, Baker said, “It’s a risk when you throw that hard anyway, you know? Quite frankly, I’m tired of answering questions about it and we just started.”
Baker made a sharp point of interest: “We’re in the same boat as last year … when he possibly could be one of your top starters. There is a lot you don’t know yet.
“I’m the one speaking, but this is an organizational decision. This makes me feel a little uneasy. I’m not the whole organization. When asked to speak about it, I’ll have a vote.”
As for Leake?
“He was pretty good last year except for his first six games,” Baker said. “The way I look at it is that we have six starters (Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Leake and Chapman). I still have confidence in Mike Leake, too.”
Chapman, a 25-year-old left-hander, went 5-5 with a 1.51 ERA, 38 saves, 122 strikeouts in 71.2 innings and only gave up 35 hits during his bullpen duties last year. And he finished 12th in the MVP voting.
Leake, only 24, is in his third year in the majors. He was 12-9 with a 3.86 ERA in 2011, but had a slippery start in 2012 and finished 8-9 with a 4.58 ERA. But he had 17 quality starts and was victimized by four blown saves.