How About It Corky? Can The Cuban Missile Be A Big League Starter?
Reds Winter Caravan Provides Unique Fan Interface
by Robb Hoff
January 25, 2013
Catcher Corky Miller may be better known for his perfected fu manchu than his slugging percentage and is likely more recognized by the fanbase of the Cincinnati Reds Triple A minor league team in Louisville than he is in Cincinnati for his stints with the big league team.
But Miller -- as a veteran in his 16th year of professional baseball -- has been around a couple different big league blocks a couple different times. And he was there in Louisville in 2010 when one of the more heralded if potentially volatile pitchers -- Aroldis Chapman -- started on his trek from Cuba to professional baseball in America.
Yesterday, I was able to ask Miller a couple questions about Chapman that Miller is uniquely qualified to answer. One was what was going through his mind when he first caught Chapman, to which Miller said he wasn't afraid of the fireballer but was hoping that Chapman had some control so that he wouldn't have to keep running back to the backstop.
And the answer to the second question seemed like an earnest and most confident "yes" about whether or not Chapman would successfully make the transition to big league starter.
Miller should be in a better position than most to gauge the answer to the question that does seem to be swirling around in the pre-Spring Training consciousness of many fans in Reds Country: How will Chapman do as a starter?
Chapman seemed to be settled for the role last Spring Training and was starting at that time until Reds hired-help closer Ryan Madsen turned out to be damaged goods and an absolute waste of the small market team's precious reserve of cash.
But fortunately for Reds Country. Chapman was able to kind of do what he did in 2010 in Louisville and transition swiftly to closer after starting out the season as a starting pitcher in the rotation. Chapman started 13 games in 2010 for Louisville before becoming the team's closer at the end of the minor league season before he made his first jump to the Reds.
Chapman definitely had a couple rough starts for the Louisville Bats in 2010, but showed that it was more likely just a matter of time before he will become the dominant pitcher that Reds general manager Walt Jocketty fortunately envisioned to the extent that he was able to pounce with the unexpected signing of the Cuban Missile at the expense of every big-market, front-office imbecile out there.
Of course, Chapman staked his first claim last year as a dominating closer for the 2012 Reds. Now, he's poised for the next step.
During the Vevay stop of the Reds caravan, Jocketty also addressed the next obvious question about Chapman and that is inning limits like that imposed upon Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg last year to the detriment of the team's post-season success but to the obvious advantage of Strasburg's agent.
We'll see about the innings limit as the season progresses but don't be surprised if there isn't any limit despite the public proclamations that there will be.
Why? First and foremost, the Strasburg delivery spelled out "Tommy John" and that's not the case with the relative ease of motion with which Chapman delivers his heat and slider. The biggest issue that Chapman faces in regard to inning limits is his control and effectiveness.
The more walks Chapman gives up, the fewer innings he'll pitch. The more hitters hone in on his 100+ m.p.h. heater and his wicked 93 m.p.h slider, the sooner he'll be hitting the showers.
Pure and simple.
But even if Chapman does find himself shut down for his own health, the future that Chapman has with the Reds is still rosy...until it becomes cost prohibitive.
The Chapman contract that the Reds worked out is friendly to the Reds if Chapman blooms later rather than sooner. After recording 38 saves and blowing away hitters as a closer in 2012, the arbitration horizon for Chapman will be sooner rather than later and that spells money troubles for the Reds.
The Reds dodged a bullet this year that would've converted Chapman's $3-million 2013 salary to bonus if he were arbitration eligible. That short-term break for the Reds won't be there next year, and in 2015, when Chapman has a $5-million player option, the actual cost to the Reds to sign Chapman to a one-year contract to avoid arbitration could be upwards of $15-million.
But like the rest of Reds Country, we'll wait and see what happens in 2015 in 2015. For now, everyone in Reds Country is grateful to the Reds organization -- from the Castellini ownership to the guidance of Jocketty and the managing of Dusty Baker -- to keep this team poised for at least more playoff runs if not for a sheer dominance that might not be seen again from a small-market team in the impending era of big-market, TV mega-money for another quarter century.