As announced by general manager Walt Jocketty prior to Friday's Cactus League game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chapman will resume his role as the team's closer after being given an extended look as a starter during spring training. That means right-hander Mike Leake will move back into Cincinnati's starting rotation to begin the year, and newly-signed Jonathan Broxton will assume the setup role.
"Like last year, it was a tough decision, but I think we felt what gave us the best opportunity as an organization to win this year would be to leave the rotation as is," Jocketty said. "We had four guys that pitched 200 innings. Hopefully we can do that again. We have another guy who is capable of pitching 200 innings in Leake. That's a very strong rotation."
Chapman went through Spring Training last year as a starter, only to go to the bullpen when injuries put three relievers on the disabled list. During the season, the 25-year-old Chapman was 5-5 with a 1.51 ERA and 38 saves in 43 attempts after he became the closer on May 20.
By all accounts this is the decision Baker was hoping for, and even more important, the decision Chapman was hoping for. It seems he developed a great deal of comfort in the role last season and, given his success, it's not difficult to understand why he'd want to remain there. At some point the move to starter will come, but with each passing year that it doesn't happen and he remains successful as a closer it may become more difficult for Chapman to accept the move.
Then again, if he wants to get paid like an elite pitcher down the road, he'll have no choice. But for now the Reds have enough starting pitching depth available to not force the issue, so we're looking at another season of lockdown ninth innings in Cincinnati.
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