The Reds bullpen could use some help. Nick Masset is struggling. Francisco Cordero is struggling. Daniel Ray Herrera appears to have lost his lucky charms. Arthur Rhodes is hurting. It's gotten so bad that local journalists are pining for David Weathers to come out of retirement.
Surprisingly, one name that we haven't heard much from the media is Aroldis Chapman. This is probably because of how poorly he pitched in his last outing (2 IP, 6 H, 6 BB, 7 R, 1 K), but I don't care. I want to ask the question: Why can't the Reds bring up Aroldis Chapman and stick him in the bullpen?
Oh, I know, I've said all along that there was no need to rush him to the big leagues, that it is important to make sure he is ready first. Well, people change. More importantly, situations change. At the time, I didn't think the Reds needed any pitching help. And while I don't think there is any reason to believe that Chapman is ready to be a starter in the big leagues, that may not be the case as a reliever.
Here's a few reasons why I think Chapman should be brought up to the Reds bullpen:
- According to MinorLeaugeSplits.com, teams are batting .189 against Chapman in the first inning this year. It's only 12 games, but it just might be that Chapman has his best stuff coming right out of the bullpen. Perhaps he is affected by sitting in the dugout for an inning, or his arm is best when it is at its freshest. I don't now, but it is unlikely that it is a lack of competition, since typically starting pitchers face the other team's best hitters all in a row in the first inning.
- His best pitch right now is his fastball. He may not have a lot of control over his pitches, but when you throw 100 MPH, you only need to be around the plate, not over it, to force a hitter to swing. Pitching in short spurts, he can grip it and rip it for an inning, making him less dependent on secondary pitches.
- Outside of Jared Burton, who was shaky last year and is still dealing with fatigue issues this season, the Reds don't have a lot of options out of the bullpen in the minors. Of the pitchers in the starting rotation in Louisville, Chapman has the stuff best suited for short appearances out of the bullpen.
- It is unlikely that the Reds are going to use Chapman in the starting rotation in Cincinnati this season. With Sam LeCure pitching fairly well, and Matt Maloney and Travis Wood possibly ready to step up from Louisville, the Reds don't need to keep Chapman stretched out for this season. If they want him to go into the rotation next year, they can send him to Winter Ball and have start to stretch himself out then.
There are lots of pitchers historically who got their start in the bullpen in the big leagues and went on to have successful careers in the rotation. Pitchers like Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt, and David Price all debuted in the bullpen, for varying reasons. The Texas Rangers are currently using Neftali Feliz as their closer, quite successfully too, and this is despite the fact that they see him as a starting pitcher over the long term. I don't believe there is great risk in stifling his growth in the bullpen. And who knows, maybe they'll find that Chapman is ideally suited for the bullpen, a la Jonathan Papelbon. That wouldn't be a terrible thing, would it?
The Reds have a need in the bullpen. Chapman can fill that need, and while it may slow down his progress on developing secondary pitches, I don't think it necessarily will slow down his overall development. Bringing him up could bring some serious firepower to a stumbling 'pen, and perhaps take some pressure off of the main 3 relievers out there. Unless the Reds think that Chapman is developmentally way behind where he should be to pitch in the majors, I don't really see any reason why they shouldn't give it a shot. It's a much less dramatic move than trading for bullpen help, which can be done if they decide that Chapman won't work.