CINCINNATI — The Real Show at Great American Ball Park Tuesday occurred at approximately 4 p.m., long before they opened the gates for fans to witness the Cincinnati Reds-Chicago Cubs game at 7:10.
Aroldis Chapman threw a 25-pitch simulated game against teammates Ramon Santiago, Roger Bernadina and Neftali Soto.
And why were they the guinea pigs? Did they volunteer?
"Oh, no," said manager Bryan Price. "If we asked for volunteers we wouldn’t have anybody hitting against him. We wouldn’t even have a catcher. When our guys know Chapman is going to pitch live batting practice when they see us coming they dive for their lockers and say, ‘Oh, no. Not me.’"
The first time Chapman was scheduled to throw live batting practice in Pittsburgh last week they put out a rumor that they’d pay $1,000 to anybody would would bat against Chapman.
"Pittsburgh’s Jose Tabata came to me and said, ‘Is it true? A thousand dollars?’" He was going to volunteer but assistant trainer Tomas Vera laughed and said, "No, we’re kidding."
Chapman threw behind a protective screen in Pittsburgh. He pitched without the screen for the first time last Saturday in Atlanta.
Homer Bailey sat in the Reds dugout watching Chapman warm up and said, "His first year with the team, when he was trying to impress everybody by throwing 105 miles an hour, nobody would get in there to face him. He had no idea where those pitches were going."
So how did it go Tuesday?
After the session, Santiago walked by and said, "Hey, Chappie is pretty good, guys." And Bernadini said, "I didn’t see the first two pitches."
Chapman was between 95 and 98 miles an hour with his fastballs and mixed in several sliders and changeups as he recovers from the line drive that shattered bones in his face during spring training.
"All my pitches were the way I want them to be," said Chapman through translator Vera. "All the location went the way I wanted. I was working more on my changeups and sliders because I know I have the fastball, have the good feeling for it. I threw a lot of the breaking pitches because those are the ones I need to work on."
Chapman now takes the next step and it is tentatively scheduled to be in a game at Single-A Dayton against Lansing on Thursday.
"I’m ready for that, for sure," he said. "I’m ready to face hitters." Asked if he felt any trepidations about line drives whizzing cloze to his head or felt like flinching, Chapman said, "Oh, no. I felt normal. I feel just like I felt before I got hit by the ball. I don’t feel anything not normal."
The Dayton appearance will be his first under game conditions, and he said he probably will need four to five games, "That would be good for me to come back to help the team once again."
Said Price, "I anticipate everything going beautifully. We now move forward to throwing a game. Then we’ll move forward from there."
Chapman threw 43 pitches, a two-inning stint, in Atlanta, but he was trimmed back to 25-pitch, a one-inning stint Tuesday. While Chapman mentioned four or five minor-league rehab appearances, Price said, "He is stretched out, his arm is in good shape and now it is just a matter of real-game situations until we feel his ready. And we don’t think it should be a terribly long rehab stint."