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Chapman’s fastball just sounds different

It’s one thing to see it on TV, and still another to sit in the stands at Great American Ballpark. But Tuesday I had the unique opportunity to be as close as you can get to an Aroldis Chapman fastball without being in the batter’s box.

In a word…Wow!

The guy they call the “Cuban Missile” threw to hitters in live batting practice at the Reds complex in Goodyear, Ariz., and it was standing room only around the batting cage. Even veteran coaches and scouts made their way to field No. 3 to watch the show and none of them was disappointed.

It’s something you experience with your ears more than your eyes. If you’ve ever stood in a gallery and watched Tiger Woods rip a drive down the fairway, it’s the same thing. Chapman’s 100-mile-an-hour fastball sounds different than anything an average big-league pitcher delivers to the plate. Even his off-speed pitches make a louder noise in the catcher’s mitt. But that’s expected when you throw a change up faster than a lot of guys throw a fastball.

Chapman was throwing to mostly minor-league hitters and the guys with the bats weren’t making much contact. The question that will linger until well past Opening Day is, can the left-hander have the same success against major-league batters for longer than one inning.

The Reds are keeping their fingers crossed that Chapman will slide right into the starting rotation without a problem. He seems pretty confident. When the workout was over, Chapman spent some time talking to a representative from one of the companies that supplies bats. After all, if you’re going to be a starting pitcher in the National League you have to swing a bat too.

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