The Brewers got their first look Wednesday at what’s behind the Aroldis Chapman hype.
Rickie Weeks greeted the Cincinnati Reds’ hard-throwing Cuban import with a leadoff home run but Chapman was otherwise tough on Milwaukee’s hitters, allowing no more runs or hits and notching five strikeouts in three innings of work in his first Spring Training start.
“It’s very funky,” said Brewers outfielder Corey Hart, who struck out swinging at a 97 mph fastball to end the first inning. “Everything he threw was moving. Nothing was the same.”
Said Brewers starter Doug Davis, who proudly made contact on a second-inning groundout: “It was fast. It got on you quick. There were a lot of arms and legs coming at you, and the ball was pretty much halfway there before he let it go. It wasn’t really heavy though, like I thought it was going to be.”
And according to Weeks, who followed his first-inning homer with a third-inning walk, Chapman was clearly having trouble locating his off-speed pitches.
“Of course he has life on his fastball, and I saw a slider and change-up from him and I don’t think he was able to get the off-speed over for strikes a lot,” Weeks said. “You know me, I don’t really pay attention [to the hype]. He’s a pitcher. He’s going out and doing his job. The hype about him? The guy throws 100 mph, so what do you expect?”
“How old is he?” asked Davis, who was informed that Chapman is listed as 22. “Oh, jeez. He’s going to be one of the greats if he stays healthy.”
Davis bested the Cuban on Wednesday, holding the Reds scoreless on three hits in four innings. He walked one and struck out three.
His work on a two-seam fastball, a sinking pitch designed to be tough on left-handed hitters, has not progressed as well as Davis has liked so he’s focusing instead on refining his usual repertoire of four-seam fastballs and cut fastballs.
“I threw one [sinker] today and I threw it in the ground, almost hit the umpire,” Davis said. “I’m just not comfortable with it yet.”