Sports briefs: Feb. 17

February 17, 2013 

Major League baseball

Reds giving Chapman shot at starting rotation

Aroldis Chapman was getting ready to start for the Cincinnati Reds last spring when the bullpen got wiped out by injuries, forcing a different approach. The hard-throwing Cuban became one of baseball's best closers in his first try at it.

He's on the same course this spring at Goodyear, Ariz., trying to win a spot in the rotation — and his manager is keeping an open mind about where he'll end up eventually. So is Chapman, who worked on his changeup over the winter to add another pitch in case he starts.

"I will prepare the same way I did last year," Chapman said, with trainer Tomas Vera translating. "I would like to start a season and throw as many innings as I can, but that's up to the team. When I was in Cuba, I threw 150 innings. I will prepare myself to throw as many innings as they want me to throw."

When closer Ryan Madson tore a ligament in his elbow and the two setup men got hurt during spring training, Manager Dusty Baker switched Chapman back to the bullpen, using him initially in a setup role and then as the closer.

Chapman excelled. The left-hander didn't allow a run until his 16th appearance of the season. He didn't become the closer until May 20, yet tied for third in the NL in saves. From June 26 through Aug. 17, Chapman turned in 23 consecutive scoreless appearances. He converted a team-record 27 straight save chances.

The Reds told Chapman at the end of last season that they were planning to make him a starter. Their other five starters are right-handers, and Chapman — whose fastball has been clocked at 105 mph — would give the rotation a much different look.

"Chapman has the chance to be a top-flight starter," General Manager Walt Jocketty said. "I always wanted to have a left-hander in the rotation."

Chapman threw mostly fastballs as a closer, mixing in an occasional slider. He has worked on his changeup in the off-season, knowing he'll need another pitch if he starts.

"He didn't throw the changeup too much, but it is better than his slider," Jocketty said. "He is a great athlete. You ought to see him hit. He is one of the fastest runners on the team."

The Reds signed Jonathan Broxton to a $21 million, three-year deal in November, giving themselves a closer and freeing Chapman to move to the rotation. Although they have faith in Broxton, it's a change that could have a big overall impact.

"It's kind of tough the way we had a shut-down bullpen last year," Baker said. "We had the guys lined up."

Baker wouldn't rule out moving Chapman back to the bullpen if injuries or other problems occur.

"That's a maybe," Baker said. "It's the same situation as last year. We started with Chapman as a starter, then Ryan Madson went down. We had no idea that Chapman would be as good as a closer. I don't think anybody did."

■ Right-hander Homer Bailey and the Cincinnati Reds avoided arbitration and agreed to a $5.35 million, one-year contract.

Bailey was 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA in 33 starts last year.


UK Sports

Softball splits doubleheader at San Diego

Kentucky's softball team, ranked 24th in the coaches' poll and 22nd by ESPN.com, defeated UC Riverside 11-3 and lost 11-0 to Oklahoma (No. 1/2) on the final day of play in the Campbell/Cartier Classic on Saturday at San Diego.

In the opener, Kentucky (8-3) got another win from freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley, who improved to 6-0 this season. Lauren Cumbess started, going three innings and allowing all three runs while striking out six. Nunley threw three scoreless innings.

Oklahoma jumped on the Wildcats early in UK's second game of the day, getting five runs in the first two innings. That was all Sooners pitcher Keilani Ricketts, who was named pre-season national player of the year by multiple organizations, needed. She pitched four shutout innings. Oklahoma's Jessica Shults hit a grand slam and finished with five RBI.

■ Kentucky's baseball game against USC Upstate was postponed Saturday because of snow in Spartanburg, S.C.

The game was moved to 1 p.m. Monday, when the forecast calls for a high of 55 degrees. The Cats (1-0) take on Niagara in a regularly scheduled game at noon Sunday at Wofford College in Spartanburg. Sunday's forecast predicts clear skies and a high of 45. Kentucky opened its 2013 season with a 9-2 win over UNC Asheville on Friday in Spartanburg.

■ Kentucky's men's tennis team, ranked seventh nationally, lost 4-1 to No. 2 Southern California in the quarterfinals of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's National Indoor Championships at Seattle. Anthony Rossi got one of the best wins of his career, earning Kentucky's lone point with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 12 Raymond Sarmiento. The Cats will face No. 6 Georgia in a consolation match at 11 a.m. Sunday.

■ The 17th-ranked Kentucky gymnastics team came from behind on the final rotation to defeat Missouri 194.250-194.125 on Friday night in Memorial Coliseum. The Cats (5-3-1, 3-2-1 SEC) trailed Missouri (5-5-1, 3-2-1 SEC) by .725, but they rallied with a strong performance in the floor exercise. Audrey Harrison was the lone all-around competitor posting a 39.3, which tied her career-high set last week. The junior also won balance beam, and shared the honors on uneven bars and floor exercise.


College basketball

2014 forward commits to Louisville

Shaqquan Aaron, a top-100 prospect in the class of 2014, announced his commitment to Louisville on Saturday night.

The 6-foot-8 small forward is a native of the Los Angeles area but plays his high school ball for Rainier Beach in Seattle. Aaron is nationally ranked by 24/7 Sports (15th), Rivals.com (27th), Scout.com (34th) and ESPN (51st). He was rated even higher earlier in his high school career but was ineligible for his sophomore season because of to transfer rules.

Aaron's new school, Rainier Beach, also produced former Louisville star Terrence Williams.

Aaron chose the Cardinals over UCLA, Washington and Arizona. He joins Ballard point guard Quentin Snider — also a top-50 recruit — in Louisville's recruiting class of 2014.


Golf

Haas shoots 64, takes lead at Riviera

Bill Haas had another bogey-free round at Riviera on Saturday for a 7-under 64 — the best round of the day by three shots — that gave him a three-stroke lead going into the final round of the Northern Trust Open at Los Angeles. Haas was at 12-under 201 and will try to become only the eighth back-to-back winner in the 76-year history of this tournament.

"It's very difficult in this game to just pull away from the rest of the field," Haas said. "You've only seen a few guys ever really do that, and those are guys like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson. So I think I've just got to stay in the moment, don't let my emotions get the best of me."

Bernhard Langer shot a 2-under 70 to take a three-shot lead after the second round of the Champions Tour's ACE Group Classic at Naples, Fla.

Jiyai Shin and 15-year-old amateur Lydia Ko both shot rounds of three-under 70 to surge six shots clear of the field heading into the final day of the Women's Australian Open.


The last word "We've won close ones where we've played good offense, we've won games when we've played good defense, we've won when we played great on both ends. Today falls in the category of just playing with a lot of heart," said Travis Ford of his No. 17 Oklahoma State team after its 84-79 overtime win over Oklahoma on Saturday. "They're making me grayer and grayer by the day," Ford added, "but very proud of them."

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