By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES — Aroldis Chapman, from Cuba, has had a fantastic first half season as a reliever for the Cincinnati Reds, which earned him a slot on the National League All-Star team for Tuesday night’s game in Kansas City.
A few years ago Chapman was becoming the top left-handed pitcher on the Cuban national team when he decided to abandon ship and seek a MLB contract.
His gamble proved a success and he signed for $30.25 million dollars with the Reds.
A starter in the Cuban league, Chapman, 24, hopes to have that same role farther down the line in the majors.
However, this year he has been both set-up reliever and closer for the Reds who are battling for first place in their division.
In 35 mound appearances, nearly half of the Red’s games, Chapman boasts a 1.83 ERA, a 4-4 record and 11 saves. The most outstanding of his statistics is 71 strikeouts in 39.1 innings against only 12 walks.
Chapman had been known in Cuba for his speed, with an over 100 mph fastball, but also for control problems in the local league when he pitched for his native Holguin. He has maintained his speed but now appears to have overcome the control lapses.
Cuba’s most ardent fans have kept up on Chapman’s numbers in MLB through illegal TV satellite dishes and word of mouth, thus getting around the blackout on all Cuban players by the Cuban media.
Cuban TV features professional soccer over baseball, the country’s national sport, for international broadcasts. Most believe the reason is that there are no Cuban players on the top level soccer teams.