The Reds landed the hard thrower with a six-year, $30.25 million deal in January. Manager Dusty Baker said he wants the 22-year-old Cuban defector to concentrate on getting hitters out.
"I don't care who you are, you're going to be nervous. If you're not nervous, you're either lying or something's wrong with you," Baker said Thursday. "Hank Aaron used to say nerves are good. Just be nervous, but don't be scared."
Baker planned to work Chapman for an inning Thursday in an intrasquad game, then in relief of Homer Bailey next Monday afternoon against the Royals at Goodyear Ballpark. Chapman is competing to make a Reds' starting rotation that appears to have four spots set with Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto and Bailey, all right-handers.
Chapman has been clocked at 100 mph, but also has control issues. Baker says that's to be expected for such a young, powerful arm.
"Not to put him in this class or anything, but how much control did Randy Johnson have at that age, or Sandy Koufax, or Nolan Ryan?" Baker said. "Very few guys have had the kind of control that they had at a later age."
Baker also said Chapman's breaking ball is better than many believed.
Baker is already anticipating that Chapman will be a drawing card this spring. He joked that is a reason to bring him in later in the game.
"He'll be in the bullpen. Down here, it doesn't matter," Baker said. "Plus if we pitch him later, the fans stick around and drink more beer."