Aroldis Chapman hits 100 mph, strikes out three in Reds debut

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Chris Getz(notes) confirmed what the radar gun said about Aroldis Chapman(notes).

"Yeah, he's bringing it," Getz said after Chapman's Cactus League debut.

Cincinnati's Cuban curiosity threw at least one pitch that reached 100 mph, according to the scouts that were clocking him, and he struck out three Kansas City Royals over two scoreless innings on Monday afternoon.

Chapman, via Cincinnati Reds translator Tony Fossas (remember him?) didn't see why a big fuss was being made over his velocity.

"I wasn't trying to throw any harder, or anything like that, I was just working on my pitches," the just-turned 22-year-old Chapman said. "If I did hit that high, it's just one of those things."

Yes, Aroldis, 100 is the new 90.

After relieving Bronson Arroyo(notes) to start the third inning, Chapman allowed one hit — a sharp single to countryman Brayan Pena(notes) — and a walk. Of his 26 pitches, 15 were strikes, though his control sharpened after a ragged beginning.

"I'll take 100 and command," manager Dusty Baker said.

True, it was only two innings and it was only against the Royals, who employed Rick Ankiel(notes) as a cleanup hitter and Alberto Callaspo(notes) in the five hole.

But the buzz seems justified so far for Chapman, whom the Reds signed to a $30-million contract (more if he meets incentives) in the offseason's most surprising deal.

Chapman, a 6-foot-4 left-hander who defected from Cuba in 2009, said he felt better than he did during last week's intrasquad game.

"I feel like I can be more aggressive in the zone and I don't have to worry so much about throwing the ball inside," Chapman told about a dozen reporters who showed up to watch him pitch. "I went out there with the same attitude — being responsible with my pitches."

Ankiel, a former pitcher with the same kind of lively arm back in the day, said Chapman throws harder than most lefties and used sliders with two different breaks. He also cuts his fastball — something Getz did not expect — and once followed up a pitch in the upper 90s with an 80-mph change-up.

Chapman is not Sandy Koufax just yet, though.

"I think it's the same thing from everybody you're going to ask," Ankiel said. "When he learns command and knows what he's doing with it, and gets a feel for being in the big leagues, he's going to be a good one."

Wouldn't it be cool if Chapman were the next Sandy Koufax? Fossas, a minor league pitching coach with the Reds who played 12 seasons in the bigs, says Chapman has all of the necessary gifts.

"He's very bright, very smart and he already brought pretty solid mechanics," Fossas said. "He's a work-a-holic and, with the technology and video room we have here — he's never seen himself before — he's only going to get better."

Fossas says learning to pitch is nothing compared with plotting a defection from Cuba.

"That takes a lot of guts, a lot of heart," said Fossas, himself born in Havana in 1957. "Leaving his family, not knowing what the future will bring. I think, for him, this is a piece of cake."

Arroyo surprised himself by pitching two scoreless innings. Then he watched Chapman follow him and noticed something

"As uncomfortable as a guy like myself can be at this time of year ... from where he's coming from — just getting used to crowds and knowing everyone is watching him — for him to throw strikes and not walk too many guys, it was pretty good," Arroyo said.

Morning rain and cool temperatures might have limited the crowd at Goodyear — just over 2,000 paid to see Chapman's debut — but in 20 years, many more might claim they were there.

One just had the feeling it was the start of something special.

David Brown is in Arizona this week. Follow his journey on Twitter — @answerdave.

What to Read Next