Closer Aroldis Chapman didn’t pitch for the Cincinnati Reds until May 11 this year after a line drive to the head during spring training not only derailed Chapman’s 2014 season but also put his career in jeopardy.
Fortunately, Chapman was drilled in a spot where the damage was limited, resulting in surgery to implant a metal plate above his eye. Chapman returned much quicker than expected, and now that he’s been back with the Reds for nearly a month, it’s hard to imagine that the results could’ve been better for Chapman and the Reds.
Although Chapman has thrown just 10 innings, he’s enjoying career-best rates for K/9 (16.2) and K/BB (6). He has blown one of his eight save opportunities this year and lost a game on a solo home run, but overall Chapman has proven to be his dominant self despite the injury.
All the concern about how Chapman would respond psychologically is no longer relevant, but what has surfaced is something unexpected about Chapman’s return — his sudden offering of a 90-mph changeup.
Chapman’s change-up didn’t emerge right away after his return. It’s a recent development that has been as surprising as it has been effective. Adding a change-up to his Cuban Missile 102-mph four-seamer and 93 mph slider is making Chapman more than just a one-trick-pony of a closer and will likely rekindle speculation that Chapman is one day destined to be a starter if he can continue to develop a starter’s repertoire of pitches.
The Reds have Chapman under club control for two more years through salary arbitration eligibility, but if the team has learned anything from the way staff ace Johnny Cueto has comeback from an injury-riddled 2013, it’s that there’s a time to strike with a contract extension before it’s too late.
The time for the Reds to extend Chapman may be now or never.