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Reds' Chapman looks strong throwing live batting practice

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Apr 30 2014 01:57:52 AM CDT
Updated On: Apr 30 2014 09:24:50 AM CDT
Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds, 2012

Robert Galbraith/Reuters

CINCINNATI -

Reds outfielder Roger Bernadina got a first-hand look at how close Aroldis Chapman is to returning to a big-league mound when he flailed at a couple fastballs from the left-handed closer during a live batting practice session Tuesday.

"I didn't see the first two balls," Bernadina said.

Chapman, who threw 25 pitches without a protective screen Tuesday, could begin a minor league rehab assignment as early as Thursday at Class A Dayton. While Reds manager Bryan Price wasn't ready to confirm that plan, he likes what he's seen from Chapman.

"Nothing's written in stone," said Price. "His arm's in great shape. Now it's just a matter of real game situations until he's ready. It shouldn't be a very long rehab stint."

Chapman's fastball is as explosive as ever as evidenced by Tuesday's outing. So he's been working more on his changeup, slider and breaking pitches while also building up his stamina before returning to the stopper's role.

"All of my pitches went the way I wanted them," said Chapman via interpreter Tomas Vera on Tuesday. "I think maybe four or five games would be good for me before coming back to join the team."

Of course that isn't Chapman's decision. The Reds want to make sure he's prepared, not just physically but mentally to face live batters at game speed.

Since March 19 when he was struck in the forehead by a line drive during a Spring Training game, all agreed the mental hurdles would be the most difficult for Chapman to overcome. He had a plate inserted above his eye to help the fractures heal. Staples securing the incision were removed earlier this month.

But, the 'Cuban Missile' says he's ready to fire. "I feel like I did before I got hit," Chapman said.