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Spring Headlines: Reds still unsure of Aroldis Chapman’s role; Carlos Gomez signs extension with Brewers

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(USA Today)

We’re less than three weeks away from opening day and the Cincinnati Reds still have no idea whether they're going through with moving Aroldis Chapman into the starting rotation or keeping him in the closer's role.

A little alarming? Maybe?

Not that we’re rushing them, though, or have fantasy baseball drafts coming up. Not at all. And obviously we understand it’s a huge decision with wide-ranging implications not only for Chapman personally, but also in terms of how their roster will be structured for the upcoming season. Once they commit one way or the other, they’re pretty much locked into it for the next few months, so they need to be sure it‘s the right move.

[Also: Derek Jeter looks like the Jeter of old at SS]

Still, as manager Dusty Baker noted on Wednesday, they can’t tap dance around it forever, either, so a decision in the next week or so would be preferable. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer has the quotes:

“I’d like to decide soon and get my team together,” Baker said. “I don’t like having guys in the middle. That’s a bad situation when you’re in the middle of anything. An unknown. Then everybody else is in an unknown situation. That’s unfair to him or us — the situation he’s been put in. He was in that same situation last year.

“I’d like to make a decision in the next week or so, so I can get my team together. The decision is not only mine, it’s ours. But I got my opinion.”

Most believe Baker’s preference would be to keep his flame-throwing left-hander in the ninth inning. Under that scenario, Mike Leake would slot back into the rotation with new addition Jonathan Broxton assuming the setup role. If Chapman starts, however, Broxton closes, and Leake’s future with the Reds could end up going in any number of directions. Obviously, the sooner all parties know their roles, the better.

It's worth noting that Chapman is scheduled to start Saturday’s Cactus League game against the San Francisco Giants. It's possible a final decision will be rendered shortly after that outing is evaluated.

Carlos Gomez signs extension: Congratulations are in order for Carlos Gomez, who agreed to a three-year, $24 million extension that will keep him with the Milwaukee Brewers through 2016.

According to MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, the deal buys out Gomez’s first three years of free agency. He’ll still earn the $4.3 million salary he agreed to in January when the two sides avoided arbitration, and then once the new deal kicks in he’ll earn $7 million in 2014, $8 million in 2015, and $9 million in 2016. Not bad coin at all.

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has more, including an impressive stat from 2012 and comments from general manager Doug Melvin.

He had a breakout season in 2012, hitting .260 with 19 home runs, 51 runs batted in and 37 stolen bases in 137 games. He was one of just five players in the major leagues with 15-plus homers and 30-plus stolen bases, joining teammate Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, B.J. Upton and Jimmy Rollins.

"He’s still a young guy. The thing I like about this also is that we have two young catchers, we’ve got a young shortstop, Rickie’s still under 30 year of age and now we’ve got a young centerfielder. Sometimes the toughest parts to fill on a ballclub are up the middle, and with Lucroy, Maldonado, Segura, Rickie and Carlos, that’s a very impressive group of still young players. It’s a good building foundation for us.

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(AP)

Run, Albert, Run!: Albert Pujols reaching base is never a story. The guy is simply a hitting machine who possesses great patience and a remarkable .414 career on base percentage. It's just how he rolls

[Baseball 2013 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

However, that he managed to reach base on Wednesday was a little bit of a story, and it was made even bigger by the fact that he was able to run those bases after reaching them.

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports explains:

Pujols, who underwent offseason right knee surgery, played in only his fourth Cactus League game Wednesday against the San Diego Padres. But it represented a landmark of sorts: Pujols ran the bases for the first time, rather than exiting for a designated runner, as had been the arrangement for his first three games. (It only came into play Sunday against Kansas City.)

Despite the slow progress, Pujols insists he'll be one-hundred percent coming opening day. Of course we'll keep an eye on things just to be sure.

Bad news, San Diego: The Padres may be without top pitching prospect Casey Kelly for an extended period of time after it was revealed on Wednesday that he’s been dealing with soreness in his right elbow over the past week and results of his initial tests were “concerning“ to the examining physicians.

Naturally, the fear now is that Kelly will be required to undergo Tommy John surgery, which would end his 2013 season before it really started. But as MLB.com’s Corey Brock noted on Twitter, there are still a couple of important steps remaining before a decision of that magnitude is considered.

As you may recall, Kelly was a key piece in the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox in December of 2011. He went on to make an impressive major league debut with San Diego on Aug. 27, shutting out the Atlanta Braves over six innings to earn his first win. He finished the season 2-3 with a 6.21 ERA in 29 innings.

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