One of baseball's premier relievers gets the ball to start the game against the Chicago Cubs Saturday.
Aroldis Chapman has had a good spring pitching longer in games to work on his secondary pitches.
"We will back him off the second half of spring training with fewer innings and less time between appearances," Bryan Price said last week after Chapman pitched two innings for the fourth time.
The Reds' bullpen is less defined this year. Last year they had Jonathan Broxton for the eighth inning and Chapman for the ninth.
Burke Badenhop had a good inning on Friday against the Brewers. Jumbo Diaz was "94-95 and in the zone," Price said. Tony Cingrani will work out of the bullpen. Rookies Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias are competing for multiple inning roles. Kevin Gregg and Paul Maholm have experience. Maholm is left-handed and excellent at getting ground balls when they are needed. J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure, Manny Parra and Pedro Villarreal all have a shot at the Reds' seven-man bullpen.
It was Mike Leake's turn to start but he is pitching in a minor league game instead. Price feels it is more important for a starting pitcher to get up and down more times than to throw a set amount of pitches. The coaches can control the environment in a minor league game to do that. They can stop an inning with two outs for example. In a Cactus League game they follow the normal rules.
Hitters often use these games to make up at bats. A batter may bat three times in an inning to get the repetitions in. They can run the bases or not run the bases as the coaches choose.
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With Leake getting his next to last spring start in a minor league game, Price wants Chapman to face Cubs starters rather than pitch as a closer when the rookies and minor leaguers are in the game for the Cubs.