Sunday, May 29, 2011

Aroldis Chapman's path back to the Big Leagues

May, 29, 2011May 2911:16AM ETEmailComments1
The most pivotal moment for Aroldis Chapman, in the end, might not have happened on a mound, or in a bullpen session. It might've occurred in a conversation that he had with Reds pitching coach Bryan Price.

The Cincinnati left-hander is currently in the minor leagues, working his way back to the majors, after a spectacular start to his season, and an equally spectacular crash. Chapman didn't allow a run in his first 12 appearances of the season.

But in his 13th appearance, Chapman lost the strike zone, walking three batters in an inning. It was the first in a string of four outings in which Chapman walked 12 batters in 1.1 innings. The worst of it may have happened in Houston on May 10, when Chapman walked all three batters he faced.

It was apparent to the Reds' staff that Chapman, a defector from Cuba, was greatly embarrassed by his outing, and greatly frustrated. There were times when he was in the minors in 2010 in which he had seemed isolated, and appeared to struggle to assimilate with teammates. After the three-walk outing in Houston, he disappeared from the main room of the clubhouse.

Chapman and Price met that day to talk about what had happened and to discuss adjustments, not an easy conversation -- which is probably expected for players of Chapman's background, at this point. Many major League evaluators believe that the players who have the greatest cultural adjustments to playing Major League Baseball are not players from Japan, like Daisuke Matsuzaka, or from Korea, like Shin-Soo Choo. Rather, through the years, they have noticed that players who defect from Cuba tend to struggle within clubhouses, largely because they don't exhibit trust -- they fear an ulterior motive for routine decisions or interactions.

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