Reds closer strikes out in first Major League at-bat en route to six-out save
CINCINNATI -- With the Reds holding a commanding 8-0 lead after four innings on Wednesday night, it seemed unlikely closer Aroldis Chapman would be needed to pitch. Four innings later, Chapman not only pitched, he also registered his first career at-bat.
After the D-backs stormed back to make it 8-7 and Jonathan Broxton suffered an injury in the eighth, manager Dusty Baker was forced to bring in Chapman an inning earlier than usual. And with the nine-spot due up third in the bottom of the frame, Baker wanted to make a double-switch with Ryan Ludwick to avoid sending Chapman to the plate. However, a simple mistake made it so that Chapman would have to hit to stay in and pitch the ninth inning.
"The umpire asked me and [pitching coach] Bryan [Price] who did we want?" Baker said. "We said we wanted Chapman. Me and Bryan pointed out to Chapman, and we couldn't double-switch after that. I've never been in that circumstance where you have the injured player, and I was sort of distraught by the fact I had to go get Chapman and the fact that we were going to lose Broxton."
While Chapman was warming up on the mound, Baker lobbied with home-plate umpire Chris Conroy.
"I went back out and said, 'You sure I can't do that?'" Baker said. "He said 'No, you can't do that.'"
As a result, following a strikeout and a single, Chapman stepped into the batter's box for the first time in a Major League game.
After missing a bunt to start the at-bat, Chapman worked a full count. Although he whiffed on a sinker from Brad Ziegler and struck out on six pitches, Chapman, who said he felt good at the plate, had bigger things on his mind.
"My thoughts were the same," Chapman said through interpreter Tomas Vera. "I got to come here the same way, hit this inning, and then I'll worry about the next inning, so I was just trying to save the game. That was my game."
Chapman did in fact pick up the two-inning save -- the first of his career -- as the Reds won, 10-7.
Before talking with reporters, Chapman watched a replay of his at-bat on a TV in the clubhouse and smiled.
"Being a closer, you never think that you're going to hit," Chapman said. "I never thought that was going to happen."
Neither did Baker, who said Chapman needs to work on his bunting but added that he is a good hitter and "probably one of the fastest guys in this league."
"I was hoping he'd hit one to the gap and everybody could see it," Baker said.
Unfortunately, Baker now finds himself facing a difficult situation following Chapman's two-inning effort. With Broxton likely headed to the disabled list and various other relievers receiving heavy work in the past two days, the Reds are limited in the bullpen going forward.
"I don't know who's available to close now," Baker said. "[J.J.] Hoover has gone three days in a row. [Alfredo] Simon had gone 2 1/3 yesterday, Sam [LeCure] went 1 1/3. I don't know. We'll see."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com.