CINCINNATI — What is it like standing in the batter’s box trying to hit an Aroldis Chapman fastball or slider, other than feeling like a guy standing blindfolded in front of a firing squad without a cigarette or a Kevlar vest?
San Diego Padres first base coach Dave Roberts, once a major-league infielder, smiled and said, “That guy scares me to death when I’m just standing in the coach’s box.”
Roberts could have experience a double dose of the frights Wednesday night when the Reds unveiled their new one-two bullpen bash of Jonathan Broxton and Chapman.
Chapman finished Wednesday’s 6-4 victory over the San Diego Padres for his 23 rds save, giving up a two-out double before striking out Logan Forsythe with a 100 miles an hour fastball.
Preceding that, though, Broxton, acquired Tuesday from Kansas City, came on in the eighth after arriving right at game time and he went 1-2-3 — strikig out Mark Kotsay and getting two weak grounders to the mound. He ran off the field, all 300 pounds of him, to a standing ovation.
“It was crazy,” said Broxton. “I got the phone call yesterday, spent all day and night packing up and got to bed about 2:30 in the morning. I emptied the whole house and got the wife and kids out of there this morning. I got on a plane and came here.
“I had a lot of adrenaline out there — don’t know how much longer that can go,” he said. “The reception was nice — great fans, very respectful. They have a good team here and going from last to first is a big jump, picking up 20 games overnight.”
Said manager Dusty Baker of his revamped bullpen, “Both Chapman and Broxton are closers, both have 23 saves this year. It sure is nice to have both of them in there throwing strikes.”
ONCE AGAIN, it was left fielder Ryan Ludwick destroying his former team. On Tuesday he had a home run and four RBI. On Wednesday he had a home run and four RBI that including a two-run homer in the first to give the Reds a 3-2 lead, a run-scoring single in the fifth to again give the Reds the lead, 5-4, and a run-scoring single in the seventh to push the lead to 6-4.
“The last couple of years have been down for him and this is the first time in a couple of years he hasn’t been traded at the deadline,” said Baker of Ludwick. “He’s doing everything in his power and control to find a home. It’s tough to move around when you’ve been a quality player. He has arrived right on time with Joey Votto being out.”
CHRIS DENORFIA, A Padres outfielder who was formerly with the Reds, has faced Chapman three times and on Tuesday night Chapman shattered his bat on a ground ball.
“He’s different,” said Denorfia. “You know what you’re going to get and you better be ready. What’s different is that it is tough to lay off his high fastball. It doesn’t travel the same as other high fastballs. He throws it so hard and has so much rotation on the ball that it doesn’t have time to do what other pitchers’ high fastballs do. It never drops, never comes down. It just keeps rising.”
YONDER ALONSO, one of the four players the Reds traded to San Diego for pitcher Matt Latos, was the first major-leaguer to face Chapman — in a spring intrasquad game.
Not surprisingly, Alonso doubled. He has nine multi-doubles games for the Padres this year. And after Alonso doubled, Chapman hit Todd Frazier in the kneecap with the next pitch, knocking him out of action for four days and Frazier said, “Darn, that really, really hurt. Never had anything hurt so bad.”
Alonso said Chapman has changed — all for the better.
“He has more much more command of his game, not as raw as when he first came up,” said Alonso. “He has a plan, he knows what he is doing, he knows what his pitches are doing. He knows his point of release much better and is more consistent with it. He understands himself and his body more.
“The guys in the dugout talk about him and say he has electric stuff and you have to be ready for him. You have to be ready for that fastball because his goal is to come in there and get three quick outs, as few pitche as possible — get in, get out.”
Mostly he gets in and gets outs.
AND WHAT BETTER guy to talk about Chapman than one of the best closers of all-time, Trevor Hoffman, a guy who recorded 601 saves, mostly with the Padres.
“I had the opportunity to be with the Milwaukee Brewers when he made his debut and it was a tough at-bat for Mr. LeCroix (Matt LeCroix struck out on three pitches, all fastballs over 100 miles an hour),” said Hoffman, now a Padres broadcaster.
“He added more deception, more deceptive life, not just velocity any more,” Hoffman added. “It gets on guys more now than it did before and that’s why his strikeout numbers are so big.”
And Hoffman likes what he sees off the field, too, “Because I watched him run in the outfield today, so heworks hard, and he didn’t overthrow in his workout after throwing 17 pitches last night. It seems he has a good idea of how to prepare on a daily basis for runs of three or four games in a row.”
Then Hoffman said an enticingly eye-popping thing.
“They’ve done a nice job with Chapman, bringing Sean Marshall in and adding Jonathan Broxton,” he said. “Nothing is going to compare to Norm, Randy and Rob (The Nasty Boys of Charlton, Myers and Dibble), but those are three really good arms in the back of the bullpen.”
DEVIN MESORACO drew a three-day suspension for his tantrum with umpire Chad Fairchild Monday. The Reds have appealed and Mesoraco can play until the decision comes down.
And maybe there was another reason Mesoraco went berserk: maybe he was out of his head. Mesoraco suffered a concussion in Monda’s home plate collision with San Diego’s Cameron Maybin, but he played Tuesday and had his meltdown with umpire Chad Fairchild.
Just before Wednesday’s game, Mesoraco was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list and the Reds purchased the contract of Louisville catcher Dioner Navarro. Infield Mike Costanzo was designated for assignment.
Mesoraco’s reasoning for his explosion resonates positively in the clubhouse from the Reds pitchers, if not manager Dusty Baker.
“I’ve hurt the team and I feel bad about it,” he said. “I don’t care how much the fine me, as long as I don’t hurt the team.
“I was sticking up for the pitchers,” he said. “We weren’t getting many calls, so I am going to stick up for the guys and maybe earn a little bit of respect from the players. That’s all I care about — what the players and coaches think I care about. I don’t need any umpires to like me, I’m just trying to be respected in the clubhouse and go about my business in the right way.”
WHEN BAKER WAS told that Mesoraco was trying to earn respect from the pitchers, Baker said, “For what? Stick up for them? It is OK to stick up for ‘em, but you don’t want to stick out.’
Of the appeal, Baker said, “We’ll submit our case and hope to get some understanding and a little grace on the amount of days. It isn’t pleasant for Mesoraco, he’s not proud of his actions, but when you are young and emotional you have to learn things the hard way.”
BRANDON PHILLIPS was not in Wednesday’s lineup and won’t play Thursday’s day game, with hopes of being ready for the weekend showdown against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Will Joey Votto face the Pirates? Probably not.
“We thought it was just a cramp when he came out of the game in Colorado, but I didn’t like the way he was moving last night,” said Baker of Phillips’ left calf strain. “We have a big series coming up, so he’ll sit today and tomorrow.”
BERNIE STOWE, who has worked in the Reds clubhouse since 1947 in several capacities, showed me a ring on his finger and asked, “Know what this is?”
It was a gold ring with an orange stone and on the stone was ‘221.’ I thought a moment, then it hit me. “That’s 221 home runs the Reds hit in 1956, right?”
Said Stowe, “That’s it. They gave everybody rings when the ’56 Reds set a record with 221 home runs. I lost my original, but I told the traveling secretary, John Murdough, and he said, ‘I have another one you can have if you get me three autographed baseballs.’”
And Stowe still has the second ring.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Media relations director Rob Butcher told the media in manager Dusty Baker’s offense that Braxton would arrive later tonight and Baker’s eyebrows shot up and he said, “What? Where is he? Damn?”
Baker thought Butcher said Bronson instead of Braxton and Bronson Arroyo was Wednesday’s pitcher and Jonathan Braxton, newly acquired from Kansas City, goes to the bullpen as soon as he arrives.
QUOTE OF THE DAY II: Asked who his emergency backup catcher is, Baker said, “Miguel Cairo or Wilson Valdez, if we can find catching equipment to fit him.”Tweet