Dusty Baker has a knack for kindly squeezing English lessons into his morning meetings with the media, often pointing out that his mother, a college professor, was a stern grammarian around the house.
More than once this spring the topic has centered on pronouns as Baker explained the difference between singular and plural forms after being asked: “What were you looking for by moving Aroldis Chapman to starter?”
“You know that ‘you’ doesn’t just mean ‘me,’ right?” Baker has said on more than one occasion.
Although he hasn’t flat-out said it, Baker keeps insinuating he wasn’t the one to make the call on Chapman, who gave the Reds a sometimes devastating weapon out of the bullpen last year. With an incredible stat line — 68 appearances, 35 hits, 122 strikeouts, a 1.51 ERA and 38 saves — Chapman was the face of a relief staff considered one of, if not the best in the majors last year.
And if Baker prefers him in the pen, he’s not alone. Chapman recently told a USA Today reporter that he’d “developed a taste for the bullpen and wanted to stay there.”
As of now, the plan is still to have Chapman in the rotation, bumping Mike Leake either to Triple-A or a middle relief role. But that means others like Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall will need to pick up the slack left behind.
Chapman and Leake each threw three scoreless innings in minor league starts on Monday.
Is pitching coach Bryan Price worried? Not particularly.
He said a bullpen with arms that could include Sam LeCure, Logan Ondrusek, Nick Masset, Manny Parra and others should be able to keep the status quo.
“We had seven guys who had least one save last year. You take out Chapman or Marshall, and that’s five other guys who had at least one,” Price said. “That doesn’t necessarily make them a closer, but it makes us comfortable that we can give them the ball in that situation and still expect a similar result to what we’d get from a Chapman or a Marshall.”
Price added that it’s difficult to project who will end up as a team’s closer each season, largely because of the circumstances that unfold. Broxton, for example, didn’t start his professional career as a reliever, starting all 23 of his appearances in Class A Vero Beach back in 2004. He was later promoted to the big leagues and worked from the pen on a staff that saw Takashi Saito as its closer. Broxton later emerged in the role after Saito suffered an elbow injury.
“Closers are typically found out of necessity. The guy that you have closing gets hurt, and you’ve gotta find someone in your bullpen to take over that job,” Price said. “They either sink or swim. And those that swim, they quite often stay in that role for a long, long time.”
Athough Broxton is expected to get the job, Marshall has the potential to handle the duties if necessary, finishing with nine saves last season.
“He can pitch. Number one, that’s his job. He’s been doing it for a while, and he’s good at it,” Baker said of Marshall. “I had him when he first came up as a starter, and he’s still getting better. He’s working on things.”
Marshall is also one of Baker’s favorites for mentoring younger pitchers.
“He has a great sense of humor, but he doesn’t talk too much. Most times if he speaks, it’s worthwhile to listen to,” Baker said. “I’m glad we’ve got Marsh. Now we’ve got to add a complement to Marshall.”
Frazier’s fine: Todd Frazier hit his first homer of the spring on Sunday against the White Sox, a solo blast to left that gave the Reds a 3-1 lead.
Baker said before that contest that he hadn’t seen enough of the projected starting third baseman after suffering a calf strain earlier in camp.
“He hasn’t played enough or had enough action to assess how he’s done. He’s only played a few games,” Baker said. “He really hasn’t had a bunch of plays. He’ll be fine. He’s working hard at it. And he’s at one position, which will help him.”
Extra bases: Joe Morgan will be on hand today as a new exhibit highlighting his career will be opened to the public. According to the Reds, the exhibit will feature game-used equipment, rare photographs, memorabilia and never-before-seen items from Morgan’s personal collection. A statue in Morgan’s honor will be unveiled in front of Great American Ballpark on Sept. 7. … The Reds had their second off-day of the spring on Monday, but face the Dodgers on today in an interesting matchup of pitchers: Mat Latos will face Josh Beckett (4:05 p.m.). … In Sunday’s win over the White Sox, the team fielded what’s expected to be its Opening Day lineup aside from Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, who were away at the World Baseball Classic. Votto will be ready for duty immediately after Canada was eliminated.