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Bats' lefty impresses in pro debut

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Bats' lefty impresses in pro debut


Aroldis Chapman made his professional debut at Fifth Third Field yesterday, and his biggest problem came with his final batter.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, Toledo's Brennan Boesch tapped a slow roller down the first-base line. But the Louisville left-hander failed to cover first, allowing Boesch to reach safely and a run to score.

It was the only run allowed by the Cuban defector, who signed with Cincinnati during the offseason and is considered a top pitching prospect.

"Given time, he's going to be ready to pitch in the big leagues," Louisville manager Rick Sweet said of the 22-year-old. "The stuff is there. He could pitch in the big leagues right now and have some success.

"But there are other things that we need to teach him, like pitchers fielding practice. We need to work on bunting, other situations."

The numbers for Chapman included just five hits and a single run in 41/3 innings. The southpaw struck out nine and walked only one Mud Hen, throwing 55 of his 85 pitches for strikes.

"I was happy today, because everything went the way I wanted," Chapman said through an interpreter.

According to the radar gun on the scoreboard, Chapman threw 57 pitches at 90 miles per hour or more - 67 percent of his offerings - and had five pitches that topped 100.

"The first time he hit 100 on the radar gun, you could hear the buzz in the stands," Sweet said. "People were saying, 'I've never seen that.' I'm sure people haven't seen that. It just doesn't happen.

"And he was throwing a lot of 96s, 97s, 98s, and 99s."

Chapman threw 32 pitches that were 96 miles per hour or faster, including five at 99 and six at 98.

"He was throwing up in the zone, and that was very effective at that velocity because it was hard to catch up to it," said Boesch, who faced three of Chapman's five 100-plus offerings.

"You don't have a lot of time to make a good decision on that pitch."

Chapman's biggest problem came in spotting his breaking pitches.

"I wasn't happy with those two pitches," Chapman said of his slider and changeup. "There were some change-ups that were good, but there were some that didn't go where I wanted them to go."

The Mud Hens hit the ball out of the infield just three times: Clete Thomas ground a single into right field, while Jeff Frazier and Ryan Strieby flew out to center.

While Chapman struck out nine, that number comes with an asterisk: the Hens struck out 28 times in the first three games.

"Against us, he walked one," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "[Pitching against] big-leaguers, today he walks eight. Big leaguers wouldn't have swung at balls over their heads or at balls a foot outside.

"He would throw a breaking ball when guys were cheating to catch up to a fastball, and they would swing at balls that weren't close to the plate."

But Parrish admitted he was impressed.

"He's got a good arm," Parrish said. "There's stuff there. Would you like to have him? Heck yeah. But he's not a finished product yet."


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