Fire-balling Reds lefty Aroldis Chapman is almost certainly on his way back to the bullpen, reports Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer. CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler adds that the decision is not yet final. However, as Chapman previously told Knobler, a return to the closer's role is exactly what he wants.
The Reds had been trying to stretch out Chapman as a starter this spring. While his Cactus League ERA of 2.25 is strong, the command has been lacking. The 25-year-old made 16 starts coming up through the minors, but since reaching the majors he's worked exclusively as a reliever. And he's been dominant out of the pen: 2.33 ERA across 137 appearances, 177 ERA+, 39.7 K%.
If indeed Chapman is restored as Reds closer, then the paid-like-a-closer Jonathan Broxton will be bumped to a setup role. As well, Mike Leake will now become the Reds' fifth starter.
While this can accurately be described as a "risk-averse" decision by the Reds, it might also be a prudent one. Chapman has struggled to cultivate a third pitch, and in the bullpen he's a known -- and very, very good -- quantity. Starters are uniformly more valuable than relievers of comparable skill, but the recent transition-related struggles and injuries of and to guys like Josh Bard, Joba Chamberlain and (possibly) Neftali Feliz may have given Cincy pause.
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