Aroldis Chapman: Is the Cincinnati Reds Fireballer Another Dontrelle Willis?

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Aroldis Chapman: Is the Cincinnati Reds Fireballer Another Dontrelle Willis?
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Aroldis Chapman winds up on the hill. He's being going down hill in terms of his latest performances.

Did you see the ninth inning of the last game of the Cincinnati Reds-St. Louis Cardinals series over the weekend? No? You probably went home or changed the channel, thinking it was over. We all did.

But the Cardinals rallied with a little help from their friends. Aroldis Chapman almost turned out to be their best friend. Chapman’s performance reminded me of Dontrelle "D-Train" Willis.

Once one of the most promising left-handers in the game, Willis, 29, signed a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds for the 2011 season. He came to spring training but was reassigned to minor league camps as of March 27, 2011.

His control problems derailed one of baseball’s future stars. Ironically, he could have been Chapman’s teammate—and could very well still be. Whether that’ll be in the minor leagues or in the majors is out of my control.

With his control problems in full force in the ninth inning of Sunday’s blowout victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, Chapman raised red flags and Reds management’s eyes. His tour in the top of the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon was…interesting. 

He couldn’t throw a strike and ended up with the bases loaded—making a Reds blowout interesting. I'll guarantee you Dusty Baker wasn't amused, though. 

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
May 14, 2011: Dusty Baker congratulates Brandon Phillips on his raking in Cincinnati. The Cards were like leaves over the weekend.

Whether Chapman needs live batting practice versus throwing bullpen sessions is a question for Dusty and the Reds to figure out. Something obviously has to be done. The Reds are aiming for a World Series title to attach to the Queen City's legacy.

It seems they want to keep him on the roster and make a step forward. But with one out and the bases loaded in the ninth, the Baker came up the steps in the dugout and removed Chapman from the game.

What a run it’s been for the Cincinnati Reds lately, but Chapman hasn’t been a part of it. Difficult to watch, he walked more batters than Billy Ball Game, whoever he is.

With the Reds two outs away from a game-and-a-half lead and a sweeping of the Redbirds—for the first time since 2007—the joy of the situation was juked by the bases loaded jam created by the young fireballing relief pitcher.

All of a sudden the score was 9-4 after Ryan Theriot squared one up and hit a double over the head of a fleeting Reds outfielder. Dusty made the second trip to the mound to bring in his third different pitcher of the close-out inning.

It was supposed to be the Redbirds bullpen making all of the poor pitches with the big lead late in the game, but Cincinnati—led by Chap—obliged this time. The Cardinals scored three times.

Then Francisco Cordero came in, with the big time hitters coming up after Nick Punto. The Reds closer was pitching for his third straight game and promptly gave up a two-run double to Punto.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Albert Pujols then came to bat with the score 9-7—representing the tying run in the top of the ninth.  Pujols got a pitch to handle and fouled it back. The score was 9-2 to start the inning. The count was 0-2 when Cordero hit Pujols with a pitch.

The tying run at first base and the go-ahead run was coming to the plate in the person of Matt Holliday.   Cordero was wiping the sweat from his head, while the trainers checked on Pujols’ hand and wrist area.

Holliday hit a double play ball to end the game, but Brandon Phillips threw the pivot ball in the dirt at first base after big Albert came sliding in as hard as he could. It was then up to Cordero to get Lance Berkman—one of the league leaders in home runs.

Chapman was shown on the local broadcast sitting in the far end of the dugout in the dark by himself, while Cordero ran the count to 2-2 against Berkman. Lance struck out, though, and the Reds swept the Cardinals.

St. Louis and Cincinnati were jawing on the field, but the Cardinals go back home one-and-a-half games out of first place. To be continued in the rivalry—what happened that made Cordero start jawing at the Cardinals’ bench?

Maybe he was taking up for his boy—Chapman. Also to be continued…the saga of Aroldis Chapman.  It's a story I don't want to report on, but the "D-Train" made me do it. Speaking of train, I'm about to roll out like a speeding bullet. Catch me on the next episode of Lake's Cardinals-Reds MMA Report.

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