Chapman pitches, hitters guess
Aroldis Chapman faced five hitters for about 10 minutes worth of pitching in his session of live batting practice on Wednesday. By my count, he threw 32 pitches to Chris Burke, Chris Valaika, Chris Heisey, Yonder Alonso and Corky Miller.
Only one hitter — Heisey — made solid contact and that was one time.
“I haven’t thrown to a hitter in about eight months. I felt really good,” Chapman said through interpreter Tony Fossas. “I threw the ball very efficiently. I thought I had control and command of my pitches.”
Batters were talking to each other trying to figure out what they were seeing. After seeing Chapman’s changeup on his third overall pitch to Burke, people around the cage were heard going ‘oooh.’
For all of the talk about Chapman’s 100 mph velocity after his signing, it was his slider and changeup that had people in the cage talking, and guessing.
“That’s a nice little repertoire. Somebody should sign this kid,” Burke said after leaving the cage.
“I never really had a slider or changeup,” Chapman said. “The changeup is the pitch that wasn’t efficient and didn’t throw much. Since I got here, I’ve been working really hard on it and those are pitches I will be able to use.”
The session reminded me of the first time Johnny Cueto pitched live BP at camp. He showed good stuff right away and was an unknown entity. By the time spring was over, Cueto was in the rotation and essentially skipped Triple-A. (He did have four starts at Louisville the previous year).
“Chapman was very good,” general manager Walt Jocketty said. “With hitters in there, he was very comfortable and threw good pitches. He threw a lot of strikes. He threw a really good changeup. All in all, it was a good day.
“The slider was pretty nasty. Very nice. It will be fun to see how this progresses. There’s a lot of competition for that rotation.”
Wilkin Castillo, who speaks Spanish, was Chapman’s catcher this time. He called all of the pitches and wasn’t shaken off once.
“His slider was 85-88 mph and breaking a lot. It was pretty nice,” Castillo said. “His fastball? Oh my God, it was 98-99 mph and strikes, down and in.”
One other thing to keep in mind: Pitching coach Bryan Price had pitchers not use the “L” screen in front of the mound and not tell hitters what was coming. That’s not often the case in the first live BP. So hitters were really had a disadvantage on their second day of camp against all pitchers.
Chapman will pitch again on Saturday.
Here is what others had to say about Chapman —
“Obviously, it’s dominating stuff. If he’s going to keep the ball down like that and get ahead in counts, what can you really do? As a hitter, you have to be ready to hit the fastball. It’s going to give him so much leeway with the slider and changeup.”
“If he can command the ball down in the zone like he did today, sky’s the limit for him potentially.”
“It’s a lot like Randy [Johnson] was. When Randy could really command his fastball, what could you really do? You just hoped you ran into one. His slider to me was comparable. It was sharp and came out of the same arm slot. If he can get it in like that, as a right-handed hitter, the best you can do is hope to hit a groundball hopefully through the left side.”
“First impressions were great. I was surprised with how well he seemed to be in command of his stuff.”
“I’ve been playing long enough to know a special guy. You don’t need a radar gun to see when the ball is getting there. The ball was getting there. He’s got a little herky-jerky to him, which is good from a pitching standpoint. It’s makes us even more uncomfortable.”
“I didn’t feel that bad just because I know him. He’s my boy. I told him this morning that ‘if by any chance I have to face you, just don’t hit me.’ Whoever doesn’t know him, God bless, because it’s rough.”
Pitching coach Bryan Price:
“It was terrific. He was in the zone with all three of his pitches. I thought he was sharper against hitters than he was in the bullpen.”
“These guys have seen guys that throw hard. It’s when you get a combination of a guy that’s a hard thrower that can command a finesse pitch like a changeup and has a power breaking ball. That puts you at a big disadvantage when he’s got three choices, even when he’s behind in the count. Today, he could have pitched with any of those pitches behind in the count.”
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