Cincinnati is Chapman's second Big Red Machine
Aroldis Chapman knew so little about baseball in the United States that before he could pick a team, he had to look at a map. The left-hander from Cuba had never seen a major-league game on television and couldn't name all the teams. He finally settled on one that wears a distinctive "C" on its red cap, like the one he left.
Chapman agreed Monday to a $30.25 million, six-year contract with the Cincinnati Reds, who view him as an important addition to their rotation down the road. The small-market club with limited payroll enticed him to Cincinnati, where he took a physical, signed a deal and saw snow for the first time.
"When you look at the size of the market we are here in Cincinnati, we have to take some bold moves from time to time to try to improve this franchise," General Manager Walt Jocketty said. "We felt this was a very significant move."
Very surprising, too. Depending on when he becomes eligible for salary arbitration, Chapman could earn millions of dollars more.
Agent Randy Hendricks said eight teams were in the running to sign Chapman, who turns 22 next month. It came down to Cincinnati, Oakland and another team whom the agent wouldn't identify.
Chapman defected in July at a tournament in the Netherlands, leaving the Cuban national team known as international baseball's Big Red Machine because of its uniforms and its domination. He gained notoriety during the World Baseball Classic in March, when he pitched well against Australia and poorly against Japan. His fastball topped 100 mph, getting the attention of major-league scouts.
Once he learned about the Reds, Chapman became interested in them. Manager Dusty Baker, pitching coach Bryan Price and catcher Ramon Hernandez speak Spanish, which will be helpful to Chapman, who doesn't speak English. Also, the Reds have 10 players from Latin America.
"In terms of the transition, we couldn't look for a better place for someone who came from Cuba to pitch," Hendricks said.
Jocketty said it's too soon to tell whether Chapman will be a candidate for a starting job with the Reds this spring, or whether he'll need time in the minors to continue working on his delivery.
Guerrero finalizes deal with Rangers
Vladimir Guerrero will now be hitting in the middle of the lineup for the Texas Rangers instead of doing damage against them. Guerrero and the Rangers finalized a $5.5 million, one-year contract Monday that includes a mutual option for 2011 after the eight-time All-Star and former AL MVP passed a physical. Guerrero, a .396 career hitter against Texas, has hit .394 at Rangers Ballpark with 14 home runs and 33 RBI in 50 games.
■ Pitching great Greg Maddux has rejoined the Chicago Cubs as an assistant to General Manager Jim Hendry. The 355-game winner, who started his major-league career with the Cubs in 1986 and rejoined them from 2004-06, retired as a player after the 2008 season.
UK goes from unranked to No. 14
Kentucky's gymnastics team surged to No. 14 in the national rankings released Monday, the program's highest ranking since the 2002 season. The rankings follow Saturday's 194.850-187.250 victory over Texas Woman's University at Memorial Coliseum.
The Wildcats are ranked in all events: eighth on vault (48.925); 15th on the uneven bars (48.675); tied for 15th on the balance beam (48.400); and tied for 13th on floor exercise (48.850).
"It's early in the season and it's all about where you finish not where you start," UK Coach Mo Mitchell said. "However, I'm very pleased with moving into the rankings. I believe we're on the right track, but we still have a ways to go."
Kentucky was ranked just outside the Top 25 entering the season.
Tide's McClain, others declare for draft
Alabama All-American linebacker Rolando McClain is skipping his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. McClain anchored the national champion Crimson Tide's defense and is projected as a first-round pick. He led Alabama with 105 tackles and 141/2 stops for losses in 2009. He also had two interceptions and two sacks. He won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker in 2009.
Others declaring for the draft were Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap and center Maurkice Pouncey and Georgia Tech's All-America defensive end Derrick Morgan, running back Jonathan Dwyer and safety Morgan Burnett.
■ A former Southern California assistant football coach stated in legal documents that he received prescriptions from team and university doctors he used to feed his addiction to painkillers, SI.com reported Monday. The Web site reported Dave Watson said in a deposition that he told then-Trojans coach Pete Carroll of his addiction in February 2008, but was allowed to keep his job and use a vehicle provided by USC. Watson was involved in a car accident in May 2008, in which he pleaded no contest to DUI charges and received three years' probation, SI.com reported. The driver of the car Watson hit is now suing Watson and USC. In the three months between Watson's alleged discussion with Carroll and the crash, Watson was prescribed 1,680 tablets of pain medication, SI.com reported, citing the deposition.
■ Former South Florida coach Jim Leavitt wants his job back, insisting his dismissal for allegedly striking one of his players and then lying about the incident was unwarranted. "The allegations were misreported. I said that from day one, and I don't care how long it takes, I'm in this for my life — my name, my reputation, my family," Leavitt said Monday during a news conference at the office of his attorneys. "I want to coach this football team."
Langenbrunner captain for U.S. hockey
Jamie Langenbrunner of the New Jersey Devils will be the captain of the U.S. hockey team at next month's Olympics. USA Hockey also said the alternate captains will be Devils teammate Zach Parise, Nashville's Ryan Suter, Los Angeles' Dustin Brown and Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski.
■ Former NBA star Jayson Williams, his personal life in shambles, took responsibility for accidentally shooting his limousine driver to death eight years ago by pleading guilty Monday in Somerville, N.J., to assault and agreeing to serve at least 18 months in prison. Williams was awaiting retrial on a reckless manslaughter count but pleaded guilty to the lesser aggravated assault count for the 2002 death of Costas Christofi.
■ A Florida lawmaker has called for an investigation into who phoned a hot line with a bogus claim that Tiger Woods' children were being abused. The anonymous accusation last month was quickly rejected by Florida officials. But Republican state Sen. Ronda Storms wants officials, if possible, to prosecute the person.
■ Authorities have arrested two separatists in Angola's restive Cabinda region following a shooting attack on the Togolese national soccer team that killed three people, a prosecutor announced Monday. According to a brief statement from Antonio Nito, the prosecutor in charge of Cabinda province, two unidentified members of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda forces, or FLEC, were captured Sunday near the site of Friday's shooting.
The last word
Washington Wizards Coach Flip Saunders, who had to cut practice short on Monday, said things aren't back to normal after Gilbert Arenas was suspended for having guns in the team's locker room:
"Considering that we had three guys meeting with lawyers and the district attorney this morning during practice? No. We have people still meeting with people. We had only eight people available. That's something right now that we have to live with and fight through."