General manager Walt Jocketty said Tuesday that the left-hander has adapted well during spring training — he just turned 22 and is learning English — but had his chances of making the team scuttled by a back injury that cost him a week.
"The injury set him back to the point where it's going to be tough for him to be ready to start the season as a (major league) starter," Jocketty said. "I think we needed the spring to figure out the best route for him. Even without the injury, we may have decided to send him someplace to get established first."
The Reds signed Chapman to a six-year, $30.25 million deal in January. They gave him a chance to make the rotation as a fifth starter during spring training, but insisted they weren't going to rush a player who was going through culture shock.
When camp opened, Chapman said through a coach acting as translator that his toughest adjustment was getting accustomed to the food and the language.
He pitched so well early in camp — his fastball regularly registered 97-100 mph on radar guns — that he put himself in the final group of three young pitchers vying for the only open spot in the rotation. He gave up only one earned run and six hits in 8 2-3 innings, striking out 12 of the 35 batters he faced.
Spasms in his lower back forced him out of a game on March 22. He didn't pitch again until Sunday, when he threw one inning against Brewers minor leaguers without problem. He's scheduled to pitch two innings in a minor league game on Wednesday.
Jocketty is pleased with how well Chapman has adapted to the many new things thrown his way during spring training.
"I don't know if I really had expectations," Jocketty said. "The thing we had to do was find out more about him, and we've been able to do that — where he is competition-wise, how he's able to adapt. He's adapted well. He's still got a lot of things he's trying to learn and get comfortable with.
"Baseball-wise, he's progressed really well. It's just a question of what's going to be the best thing going forward long-term."
With Chapman out of the competition, the final rotation spot will go to either left-hander Travis Wood or right-hander Mike Leake, neither of whom has pitched in the majors. Wood has more experience in the minors, making him the front-runner. Both will pitch in split-squad games on Wednesday, and the Reds plan to announced their decision a day later.