The battle for the Reds fifth and final spot in the rotation appears to be over, or at least it should be.
Aroldis Chapman pitched five more strong innings on Thursday, yielding just two runs and seven hits while walking none and striking out six batters.
His spring training numbers have been impressive:
17 IP, 17 H, 2 BB, 18 K, 4 ER, 2.12 ERA
Yet Reds’ manager Dusty Baker is still not ready to commit to him being back in the team’s rotation.
"I don't know, man," Baked told the team’s website. "We haven't come up with [the answer] yet. Honestly, we have not decided yet. There are more people involved here than just Chapman."
In order to put Chapman in the rotation the team must also answer what are they going to do with Homer Bailey, who is out of options, and how it is going to fill voids in the bullpen left by the season-ending injury to Ryan Madson and with Nick Massett starting the year on the 15-day disabled list.
Bailey has posted a 7.98 ERA with seven walks and six strikeouts in his five big league starts this spring. However, he worked six scoreless innings with four hits, one walk and five strikeouts against a Triple-A team on Thursday. The righty has never worked out of the bullpen as a Red and it remains unclear how he’d perform in that role.
Another possibility is to trade Bailey for some bullpen help. Though after trading Travis Wood to the Cubs this offseason and Edinson Volquez to the Padres, the team’s depth of major-league ready starters isn’t as deep as it used to be.
Still, it’s time to give Chapman his crack. He’s earned it. The Cuban Missle has been a starter his entire life and the team paid him big bucks based off that. However, they rushed him to the majors during their 2010 run at the division title and put him in the bullpen. After a disappointing 2011 campaign the team committed this offseason to work him back as a starter. Now, before the season even begins they are ready to jump ship. He can make a much bigger impact on this team as a starter.