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First impressions of Aroldis Chapman: Oh, my

Today, I got my first glimpse of Aroldis Chapman, the rookie Cuban left-hander signed this winter for $30.25 million by the Cincinnati Reds, and it was about as impressive a debut as I can ever recall witnessing. (At least until Tuesday.)

The setting was Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Ariz., with the Reds facing the Kansas City Royals in what was Chapman's Cactus League debut. (The weather: overcast and 58 degrees. How do these people live like this?)

Having seen Stephen Strasburg pitch a number of times, I was curious to see how Chapman compared. And having spoken to a few scouts who had seen Chapman already, I was expecting to see a pitcher a little less polished, a little less proficient with his secondary pitches and a little less fast with the fastball. (Whereas Strasburg mostly pitches at 96-98 mph with an occasional 100 or 101, Chapman, I had heard, was mostly 94-95 with touches of 97 or 98.)

But on Monday, the scouts sitting behind home plate all had Chapman clocked consistently at 97-98, with at least one fastball reaching 100. (One scout registered a 102, but no one else had him that high. I think his gun was on steroids.)

Chapman faced a very representative Royals lineup, and retired five of the seven batters he faced, three of them by strikeout. The only hit was a sharp single to left by Royals catcher (and Chapman's countryman) Brayan Pena. He overthrew a couple of sliders, but he uncorked a beautiful one to strike out Rick Ankiel, the last batter Chapman faced. He only threw one change up -- on a 3-2 count to Brian Anderson -- which Anderson took for ball four.

It may be nitpicking, but Chapman's command wasn't great: he fell behind 3-1 once and 2-0 twice. He also didn't show a very good pickoff move to first.

The Reds appear inclined to start Chapman in the minor leagues this season -- as the Nationals are inclined to do with Strasburg. But after seeing Chapman pitch, all I can think of is what might have been if the Nationals, runners-up in the Chapman sweepstakes this winter, had both of these flamethrowers.

By Dave Sheinin  |  March 8, 2010; 3:53 PM ET
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Strasburg has it all set up for him now. Had Chapman been here to steal fire today, then the buzz might have been dimmed. However, here comes Jesus, pitching his first turn for the 0-6 Nats. Every pitcher already assured a spot in the lineup has started badly. The expectations for him are insanely high, but even a glitch or two will look great in comparison to the pathetic performance of almost everybody on the pitching staff to this point.

Stan Kasten will not sleep tonight. He knows that if Strasburg fails, and the Nats drop to 0-7 for the Spring, that it will be hard to reach 1.7 million tickets sold this year.


Posted by: kevincostello | March 8, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

"We were in it till the end" just doesn't cut it, especially in light of the abysmal ST start. The kid has to beat our team-wide 11 ERA though, so there is that. I had been really looking forward to watching Tuesday's game, but am so disheartened by what has happened to date that I can't summon the excitement that should attend this event.

Posted by: NatsFly | March 8, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Sigh. No way Chapman should be pitching for the low budget Reds.

Penny wise and pound foolish, eh Dr. Rizzo?

Posted by: howjensen | March 8, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Don't complain about the Nats. There were 28 other clubs that bid lower.

Posted by: shanks1 | March 9, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Rizzo must have some regrets on this kid. He wanted him bad, he thought that he was going to get him and he missed the market for him by a lot for this kid but not by much in terms of what this club can fork out for this kind of talent. ($5M for Chapman is everything, for the club it is one year of DYoung's service.) Man, the Reds have to be very happy, they gambled so very little, $30M payable over 10 years is nothing for the monster potential return.

Posted by: dfh21 | March 9, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Yankees fans are wondering also, why they didn't get Chapman too. As they say, you can't get them all.

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 9, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Relax. When trade deadline 2011 approaches, and the Nats are finally in a hunt for the wild card, while the Reds are just being the Reds, we may yet see "Mr. Chapman Goes to Washington."

Posted by: MikeH0714 | March 9, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Sounded initially a bit like what I've read about Nate Karns. We'll have to see if he throws 94-95 peaking at 97.

Posted by: periculum | March 10, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

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