Today’s Theme: Love for Chapmania


Was today ever the day for everyone to load the love upon Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman.

Wasn’t Valentine’s Day on Monday?

Earlier today, Alex listed Chapman as his #7 reason to be excited about the Reds 2011 season. John Fay authored three (yes, three) posts with Chapman as the centerpiece. Even the Reds official site had a piece written by Mark Sheldon on the Cuban.

The reason is obvious. Chapmania moves the needle. He moves it almost as fast as he hurls a baseball. Thus, the excitement is as legit as that surrounding the whole Reds season.

And we all know what 2011 will hold for the lefty fireballer. He will work out of the bullpen. Team him with Nick Masset and Francisco Cordero and the Reds have the makings of severely shortening a game. (Don’t laugh about Coco either. I’ll explain that in our season preview coming in a couple of weeks).

And Chapman is well aware of his current role…and his future role, too. Fay provides the insight.

"“I didn’t think about it too much: My job is a reliever. I’m a reliever now,” he said. “I want to be a starter but I don’t think about that. My job now is to be a reliever. That’s job I’m going to do. The day they want me to be a starter, I’ll start thinking about it.”"

That’s a mindset you love hearing. He has the desire to start, but the kid realizes where he is needed for the upcoming season, He’s willing to put his personal “feelings” aside for the betterment of the team. One day, his time will arrive. He recognizes what the Reds fans ultimately expect from him, too.

Once again, Fay.

"“I really feel good when I see those things the fans want me to do,” he said. “But, really, the truth is that particular moment I don’t think about those things. I just do what I have to do. I think about my job. . . At that moment, I just want to pitch.”"

Again, he’s saying all the right things. And so are Reds skipper Dusty Baker and pitching coach Bryan Price.

Before a question could even be mentioned about the closer’s situation and Chapman, Baker put that to bed…quickly. Sheldon with Baker’s quote.

"“I plan on using him like I used him last year, and we’ll see how he progresses,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “We need him now more as a reliever than as a starter. The fact he’s left-handed, the fact he seems to throw more strikes, and it might be easier on his arm relieving right now.”“There is no closer-situation controversy,” Baker said. “I know everybody wants to be in a hurry to rush him in there, but we’ve got to get him acclimated to wkhat he’s doing first.”"

Take note. Dusty said this role would be “easier on his arm relieving right now” part. It deserves a major mention and that’s why it’s in bold.

Price could prove to be the pivotal piece of Chapman’s maturation from reliever to starter. And Price has developed a mentality which will serve Chapman well.

"“We just want him to be successful,” Price said. “You don’t want it to be a disappointment if he goes in and gives you a 1-2-3 inning and he’s at 93-97 [mph]. Those days are going to come, and you don’t want it to be a disappointment. All of a sudden, maybe his motivation to pitch changes, and we don’t want that. It’s not all about him being some kind of a sideshow act throwing the fastest fastball in history.”"

Amid all the “sideshow” act, Baker has seen no visible signs that any of it has had an ill-effect on Chapman.

"“He appeared not to be affected by it,” Baker said. “I could see why, too, with what he’s been through. Here’s a guy without his family, without his support system. That’s a lot. Imagine your kid being in a different country and doesn’t speak the language without any family support.”"

The Reds have provided a huge part of his support system. When Chapman defected, he left everything behind. And Baker took the task of visiting Cuba over the winter…and brought Chapman a piece of his native home of Cuba to Arizona.

"During the winter, Baker took a weeklong trip to Cuba for what he called a diplomatic jazz-music excursion. While he tried to pay close attention to the detail of the country to understand his pitcher better, Baker brought back pictures and music CDs and gave them to Chapman on Wednesday as camp opened.“I know he must be homesick, because it’s a beautiful place to be homesick about,” Baker said.“I felt really happy when I saw that, because he was in my country,” Chapman said. “He brought things that when he showed it to me, made me really happy and really sentimental.”"

Seriously. How many managers would be willing to go to that extent for one player? That shows you how much the Reds, and Baker in particular, think of this kid.

Yes, the love was all around Chapman today.

Well deserved and well needed.