Most of Saturday’s talk at the Reds’ Player Development Center surrounded a 6-foot-4 left-handed flamethrower. Aroldis Chapman spoke with the media for the first time, fielding questions through an interpreter on whether he feels suited to move from the bullpen into the team’s starting rotation.
Each day when Chapman suits up, standing just a few feet to his side is another 6-foot-4 left-handed flamethrower, soaking it all in.
Hot prospect Tony Cingrani has kept his eyes wide open this spring, learning plenty from the likes of Chapman and Jonathan Broxton. Cingrani, whose meteoric rise last season started in Single-A Bakersfield and finished with three impressive appearances with the Reds, has a locker wedged between those of Chapman and Broxton.
“Seeing these guys playing every day and getting to interact with them is awesome. I used to see them on TV, just a few years ago,” Cingrani said. “I’ve been watching Bronson (Arroyo) pitch for 16 years or whatever he’s been around.”
Cingrani sits behind only Billy Hamilton and Robert Stephenson on Baseball America’s list of top Reds prospects, but he’s yet to throw a pitch in Triple-A. Many expect that’s exactly where he’ll open this season.
Manager Dusty Baker likes Cingrani’s confidence, and he’s expecting even bigger things from the 23-year-old after watching him fan nine batters in his first five innings of major-league work.
“There aren’t many power left-handers around. At least not that are any good,” Baker said. “And he knows he can pitch. He’s one of the few guys I’ve seen who can pitch with just his fastball. An occasional breaking ball and some change-ups. I think he threw something like 80 percent fastballs.”
Baker added that Cingrani will prepare as a starter through spring training, although it’s possible he’ll see some relief work.
The affable lefty says he’s been working on adding pitches to his repertoire and thinks the enhancements will help as he gets deeper into games.
“It’s basically just locating my fastball. My slider’s improved a lot. It’ll make me a better pitcher going through the lineup the third time,” Cingrani said. “Right now, I just throw my fastball through the first time and maybe the second through the lineup. Until they start hitting that.”
It’s possible Cingrani could find his way into the pen for the Reds late in the season, especially if Chapman gets entrenched in a starting role. He’s been chatting with veterans like Sean Marshall about how to handle himself in tight relief situations.
“I feel like this is where I belong,” Cingrani said. “That’s what we all want to do is make it up here.”
Happy Homer: Call it a good day for Homer Bailey, who avoided arbitration on Saturday morning by agreeing to a deal with the club. But while some speculated Bailey might get locked up for multiple seasons, the contract — reportedly at $5.3 million — only covers 2013. Club officials have said they’ll revisit a long-term deal in the future.
If Kevin Millar of the MLB Network is right, this scenario might work well for Bailey, who added yet another layer of muscle in the off-season. Millar projected Bailey as his player coming into spring in the best shape of his life, saying Bailey’s poised to top last year’s breakout campaign in which the power pitcher recorded the first no-hitter in the history of Pittsburgh’s PNC Park and shaved his earned run average to 3.68.
That MLB Network feed was blaring in the Reds locker room while many were relaxing in preparation for Saturday’s workout. One of the few who missed the segment was Bailey, who strolled in just as it ended.
Say cheese, Mat: Saturday morning marked photo shoot time for the Reds, who waited in line to get their head shots snapped in a small room that links the media room to the main hallway in the team’s complex.
Pitcher Mat Latos, never accused of being too tame, stopped by Baker’s office to express his displeasure with the example pictures photographers used to show players how to pose.
“Man, to make (stuff) worse, I go in there to take a photo and he’s got a Pablo Sandoval (picture),” Latos said with a snicker in front of a group of reporters.
“I flipped that (stuff) over.”