There he was, under an oatmeal-colored sky and a light drizzle one day last month, smiling brightly as he skipped out to the mound for his second bullpen session as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. In Reds camp all eyes are on the franchise's $30 million pitcher,
In his bullpen session over the weekend, the 21-year-old fired 35 pitches: four-seamers, changeups, sliders, the occasional two-seamer. Chapman, who makes his spring training debut against the Royals on Monday afternoon, enters camp as a candidate for the Reds' fifth starter slot, but there are still big questions about his command. The Cuban will most likely start the year with Triple-A Louisville, though, Price says, "We won't be shy about turning him loose, letting him compete, and seeing what he's all about."
After 12 years in Sarasota, the Reds moved into their new $23 million digs, a glistening facility in the shadow of the Estrella Mountains. "I came in, walked around and got lost," says Harang. "It's beautiful. It's a place that just makes you want to play baseball. It's got everything -- one field is exact replica of the Great American Ballpark. You gotta love the big flat screens, the charging docs for iPods and iPhones. The whirlpool in back is great. It's first class."
You get the sense that the Reds are rejuvenated -- both by their move west and their front office's surprising winter spending spree. "You heard all winter about how we had no money to spend," says Janish. "And then we go out and get a guy like Chapman.
If you haven't noticed, the Reds, who finished the season 27-13 over the season's final six weeks, are a popular sleeper pick in the National League. They are dangerous -- but it's hard picturing Cincy dethroning the Cardinals without a big season from Bruce. The phenom broke his wrist in July, but came back strong in September (.353/.463/.765). Bruce skipped winter ball to clear his mind, and spent a quiet offseason at home in Beaumont, Texas. He reported to camp early and each morning was always one of the first players hitting the cages. "He was telling me that for the first time in his life, he faced some real adversity," says Janish, his roommate in Cincinnati. "I think he's going to use his struggles last year as a positive and come back with a big year."
Among those vying for the vacant left field spot:
There's a sign in manager