- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CINCINNATI (AP) - The fire alarm was squealing at Great American Ball Park when left-hander Aroldis Chapman walked through the dugout and stepped onto a major league field for the first time.

No, he hadn’t thrown one of those triple-digit fastballs yet. Just a false alarm.

This time.

The Cuban defector joined the Cincinnati Reds before their game Tuesday night against Milwaukee, with everybody eager to see how his urban-legend fastball _ the one clocked at up to 105 mph in the minors _ fares in the majors. Will it still sizzle?

The first time out, it sure did.

Chapman got a standing ovation from the crowd of only 19,218 when he jogged out of the bullpen to pitch the top of the eighth with the Reds leading 8-3. Fans let out a collective “ooh” after each warmup throw.

His first pitch to Jonathan Lucroy registered 98 mph, and the third one hit 102 mph, drawing a loud cheer. Chapman made quick work of the three batters he faced _ a strikeout by Lucroy on an 86 mph slider and two weak ground balls by Craig Counsell and pinch-hitter Carlos Gomez. Half of his eight pitches reached triple digits, topping out at 102.

He walked off the field to another standing ovation.

Those who have seen him pitch firsthand have no doubt he can keep it up.

“There’s not a whole lot of guys like him, if any,” said pitcher Sam LeCure, who was his teammate at Triple-A Louisville.

After a moment’s pause, LeCure said, “There’s none.”

How’s that for an advance billing?

The 22-year-old pitcher who defected from Cuba only 13 months ago arrived in the middle of a pennant race on Tuesday. The Reds had won 12 of their last 16 games, pulling away to a six-game lead over St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.

The Reds already are talking playoffs in Cincinnati. And Chapman’s name is part of the conversation. The Reds are confident he can handle the pressure of coming out of the bullpen with a pennant race riding on each triple-digit pitch.

“I think he can handle it,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Because if you can handle pitching for food, you can certainly handle pitching here.”

Story Continues →