Monday, March 22, 2010

Chapmania, meet Chapprehension

As every Reds fan in the free world knows by now, Aroldis Chapman left today's game after pitching less than two complete innings, complaining of a stiff back.

I had an excellent vantage point, sitting in the front row behind home plate, watching his day unfold. These photos were all taken this afternoon.

After retiring the Colorado Rockies in order in the 6th inning, Chapman struggled with his control and quit using his fastball as much as he previously had in the spring. The fastballs he did throw seemed to have a little less pop than usual.

After the game, Chapman said through his interpreter, as reported by CNati.Com, "I'm not really hurt, it's a problem with my back I've had all week. I was trying to work it out but they took me out just in case."

When I first saw the trainers go out, I thought it might be related to a problem that he seemingly had with a blister or cut on his hand that I'd seen the trainers tend to while Chapman warmed up in his previous start. My photos and post of that can be found here.

Chapman's pitch velocity didn't reach past levels of 100+ mph. Mark Sheldon reports that Chapman recorded no pitch higher than 97 mph today.

Pitching coach, Bryan Price, noted that Chapman was indeed using his off-speed pitches more often than usual. Again, from CNati.Com:
"I didn't think he was attacking the hitters, it was a regular, typical mound visit -- be more aggressive with your fastball," Price said. "He was trying to get guys out with his slider and change-up and not being aggressive with his fastball. I wanted to remind him that he's got a good fastball and to utilize it more and then in the next few pitches we notices he was moving around kind of funky and we didn't want it to get any worse."
Chapman's day started off really well. He dominated the Rockies best hitter, striking out SS Troy Tulowitzki. He then proceeded to retire the next two Rockies on routine plays. Here Tulo swings badly on strike three.

In the seventh inning, Rockies CF Dexter Fowler hit a hard ground ball that Reds SS Drew Sutton couldn't handle. It was scored an error, which I thought was a pretty rough scoring decision, as the ball was really scalded.

John Fay of the Enquirer reports that Dusty Baker said one thing that tipped him off to Chapman's physical troubles is how the Reds new pitcher was walking around the mound. "We saw him walking around the mound. He didn't have the same stuff. We could tell something was wrong. He's just sore, a little tight."

As Chapmania turns to Chapprehension, Reds fans will just have to wait and see if this back problem becomes chronic or just a one-time occurrence. One part of this that troubles me is that Chapman says he has been bothered by the back all week.

John Fay speculates that this may take Chapman out of the running as the fifth starter for the Reds, something I had seen as becoming more and more likely. If that's the case, I really have no idea who Baker and Price will tap to start on April 11.

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