LHP Chapman hits 102 mph in debut
CINCINNATI (AP) - Left-hander Aroldis Chapman made his big leg kick and let one fly. Flashes went off around the ballpark. The crowd let out a collective “ooh” when the ball slammed loudly into Ryan Hanigan’s mitt.
And that was just his first warmup.
What came next was almost too fast to follow.
The Cuban defector made a big-league debut that opened a lot of eyes around the majors _ especially on teams thinking they might face the Cincinnati Reds in the playoffs.
Chapman pitched a perfect inning, twice hitting 102 mph on the radar gun, during an 8-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night.
“I don’t think it can get any better than this,” closer Francisco Cordero said.
Not much faster, anyway. As introductions go, this one sizzled.
“Aw, that was a wonderful debut,” manager Dusty Baker said. “People expected it, and they got what they heard about and read about.”
They’ll be talking about this one for some time.
The 22-year-old Cuban defected 13 months ago, deciding to take his triple-digit pitch to the majors. He signed a six-year, $30.25 million deal with Cincinnati in January, then set out to try to win a spot in the rotation during spring training.
He wasn’t ready. Chapman started the season at Triple-A Louisville and struggled with his control. Last month, the Reds were in a pennant race and decided to see if Chapman could become something special out of the bullpen.
Everyone can see the answer.
“He’s special,” Baker said.
His fastball was an urban legend even before he arrived. Chapman was clocked at 101 mph during spring training by major league scouts. When he moved into the bullpen, he was able to throw even harder. The radar gun in Louisville clocked one of his pitches at 105 mph.
Could he light it up in the big leagues?