3.2.16

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BASEBALL

B4 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

MLB NOTEBOOK Chapman accepts suspension New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman agreed to accept a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, a penalty stemming from an incident with his girlfriend in October. Under the discipline announced Tuesday, Chapman will serve the penalty from the start of the season in April. He will lose 30 days of pay — $1,856,557 of his $11,325,000 salary — and 30 days of major league service, which will allow him to reach six years of service time after this season, enough to become eligible for free agency. “I found Mr. Chapman’s acknowledged conduct on that day to be inappropriate ... particularly his use of a irearm and the impact of that behavior on his partner,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “I am gratiied that Mr. Chapman has taken responsibility for his conduct.” Chapman became the irst player penalized a inite number of games under the policy, which MLB and the players’ association agreed to in August following several high-proile incidents among NFL players. Colorado shortstop Jose Reyes was given an indeinite paid suspension last week, pending a trial scheduled for April 4, following an alleged altercation with his wife in October. Baseball’s investigation of Chapman stemmed from Oct. 30. Chapman’s girlfriend, Cristina Barnea, 22, told police he pushed and choked her. Chapman said there was an argument but that he was pushed down by Barnea’s brother, eventually getting a handgun and iring eight shots into a wall and window while locked in his garage. Puig not expecting suspension, report says • Los Angeles Dodgers outielder Yasiel Puig is not expected to be suspended for an alleged domestic violence incident involving his sister, ESPN.com reported, citing sources who spoke with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez. Puig, 25, was involved in an incident at a Miami bar in November in which police said he got into a ight with a bouncer. Reports alleged that Puig also shoved his sister. Neither Puig nor the bouncer pressed charges. Perez gets $52 million deal with Royals • Salvador Perez and the Kansas City Royals have agreed to a contract through 2021 guaranteeing the All-Star catcher an additional $52.5 million over ive seasons. Perez’s agreement was announced Tuesday, one day after his mother, Yilda, had her SUV stolen at gunpoint in Venezuela. His mother was unharmed and the vehicle was later recovered by the national police. Perez signed with the Royals as a 16-year-old prospect from Venezuela and shot through the minor league system. He made his big league debut in 2011, became the everyday backstop the following season and has been voted to the All-Star Game each of the past three years. He hit .260 with a career-best 21 homers and 70 RBIs last season, helping the Royals to their second consecutive World Series appearance. They beat the Mets in ive games for their irst title since 1985. Marlins reliever Capps has elbow injury • Miami Marlins rrighthanded reliever Carter Capps was awaiting a second opinion on an MRI of his right elbow, fearing an injury that would end his bid for the closer’s job before spring training games even begin. Capps met with a doctor Tuesday after the test, manager Don Mattingly said. Capps throws a 100 mph fastball, but he missed the inal two months of last season because of right elbow soreness and sat out three months in 2014. Arrieta to start Cubs’ opener • As expected, NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta will start the Chicago Cubs’ season opener. Manager Joe Maddon joked that he had “another surprise” in making the announcement Tuesday. The Cubs, coming of a 97-win season and appearance in the NL championship series, open at the Los Angeles Angels on April 4. Arrieta led the majors in wins while going 22-6 and posting a 1.77 ERA last year. His ERA after the All-Star break was 0.75. Rockies raise fences • Swinging for the fences just got a little more challenging at Coors Field, with the Colorado Rockies raising the outield walls in two spots for the coming season. The fence from right-center ield and extending into right will be raised by 8 feet in a park that’s always been regarded as hitter friendly. In addition, a section of the fence near the left-ield foul pole will be elevated 5 feet. The new fencing will be installed this month and be in place for the home opener April 8. It will be made out of a see-through, rubberized chain link. Obama to attend game in Cuba • The Tampa Bay Rays will travel to Cuba to play the Cuban national team in an exhibition game March 22, and President Barack Obama is expected to attend, ESPN.com reports. “Americans and Cubans share a love of baseball, and this is yet another powerful reminder of the kinship between our peoples as well as the progress we can achieve when we leverage those natural ties,” a White House oicial said Tuesday. The game will be televised on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. From news services

M 1 • WEDnESDAy • 03.02.2016

Gomber is another lefty with promise

CHRIS LEE • clee@post-dispatch.com

Pitcher Austin Gomber, talking with catcher Carson Kelly and manager Mike Matheny at spring training, is the youngest pitcher in the Cardinals’ camp at 22.

CARDINALS • FROM B1

“That pitch is going to take you to the next level,” Jackson told him. Today it does, oicially. Two years removed from pitching for FAU, Gomber will pitch against the Owls with a major-league logo on his jersey. Gomber, curveball in hand, will start the Cardinals’ first exhibition game, a showcase against the local college that will feature mostly the younger members of the spring training roster. They don’t get much younger than Gomber, the youngest pitcher in camp at 22. Gomber is one of two players in the major-league camp who spent last summer in Class A or lower, and he is the only pitcher. Notably, he’s not the only lefty with promise. As Super Tuesday passes and games arrive on the Cardinals’ spring schedule, an area of the roster that has already shown its depth is on the left. Tyler Lyons and Marco Gonzales are set to receive priority innings to start March, and Lyons is likely to leave Florida as a member of the major-league bullpen. Tim Cooney has had his spring slowed by shoulder soreness but will soon be prepped to lead the Class AAA roster. Dean Kiekhefer is seen as a lefty specialist, if the Cardinals want one, and Jayson Aquino ofers depth as a lefthanded starter. On the non-roster side, Corey Littrell, the minor-leaguer acquired from Boston in 2014’s John Lackey deal, has impressed with improved command and hinted at being a possible reliever. Littrell, who turns 23 this month, will open the year as a starter, though with his improved slider he could move swiftly if repurposed for the bullpen. He’ll probably be one rung head of Gomber, the Cardinals’ best lefty prospect not yet in Class AAA. “When you have a kid who is one of your co-pitchers of the year and we’ve never seen him before, you just watch him throw, watch how he works,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We like that they have the chance to develop and grow a little bit and fill out and get some strength and (see) how they can project. We used to say that about (lefty Kevin) Siegrist. We just didn’t know

what we had there. Now he’s turned into one of the better guys at the back end of the bullpen. We have depth (with) Marco and Cooney and Lyons. We have three guys with legitimate opportunities to help us near-term. “And then some kids on the way.” Gomber was originally invited to the Cardinals’ Spring Training Early Program (STEP) for prospects, but before he filed his paperwork he got a call from the Cardinals. They had reconsidered. He was coming to big-league camp. He earned the earlier invite as the Cardinals’ organization pitcher of the year, sharing the honor with the team’s top overall prospect, Alex Reyes. Gomber won his final 14 decisions and led the Midwest League in a series of significant pitching categories: strikeouts (140), opponent average (.196), and WHIP (0.97). He also led the league in wins, at 15-3. The success came back to the curve. “A game-changer for me,” Gomber said. Despite being 6-foot-5, he was unheralded and, the way he tells it, unnoticed coming out of high school. Young, at 17, and slight, at 160 pounds, he went undrafted and didn’t talk to a single scout his senior year of high school. He received one Division I ofer, from FAU. Gomber joined the Owls and soon his size caught up with his frame. His velocity jumped from around 85 mph in high school, to 88-90 mph as a freshman. He threw a curve back then at about 65 mph, but it lobbed out of his hand – a lollipop breaking ball too sweet to take. Jackson and he decided to abandon it for a harder slider. He became the Owls’ ace, piloted FAU to an NCAA regional, and then went in the third round of the 2014 draft to the Cardinals. At the end of his first season with Class A State College, the Cardinals’ pitching coordinator, Tim Leveque, saw Gomber struggle with the slider. It was a subpar pitch. With Gomber’s arm slot and fastball, a curveball would be more efective if he could get one to come out of the same release point and tumble toward the plate. “I showed him the grip that we used

Reyes could be with the Redbirds by end of season HOCHMAN • FROM B1

A rookie righty filled in for an established starter midseason, and later made a start that helped St. Louis capture the postseason. Anthony Reyes, with that flat-billed hat, sparked the eventual 2006 World Series champions. This is a trend we’ve seen in St. Louis, with the great teams. Rookie pitcher Lance Lynn aided the 2011 champs. And rookie hurlers Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness bolstered the 2013 National League champs. Alex Reyes could be the X-factor “this year,” Martinez asserted to me. “This year. I don’t know when. But I think pretty soon. “He’s unbelievable, because when I was his age, I was not like that. When I got to be that age, I couldn’t throw like that.” Wait, what? Yes you could, you’re Carlos Martinez – remember the 2013 playof run? Regardless, the sentiment by Reyes’ mentor was noted. Martinez was 21 years, two months old when he made his debut; Reyes is currently 21 years, one month old. “My ofspeed pitches, I feel they’ve gotten a lot better this ofseason,” Reyes said Tuesday. “I was able to work on my delivery and my command. But mostly commanding the fastball is going to be a key. That’s what I’m looking for in STEP camp and spring training, and hopefully that’s what I’ll leave with. … “If I’m pitching well and doing my job, I think everything will take care of itself.” The pitching well part has never been the problem. But part of the job is also not being stupid. If he hadn’t gotten busted for weed, for a second time, he’d probably

LAURIE SKRIVAN • Post-Dispatch

An earlier A. Reyes, Anthony, pitches the Cardinals to a victory in the irst game of the 2006 World Series against Detroit.

be in big league camp now. But he’s suspended for 40 more games, and he’ll probably start the season at Class AA, possibly Class AAA Memphis. I’m not even that mad about his actual marijuana use — I recently moved from Colorado, where there are numerous pot dispensaries scattered about like bars or gift shops, yet the state still seems to be (reasonably) sane. See, I’m mad that he did the one thing he knew could get him in trouble. It doesn’t matter what the thing was, it was the mindset. I mean, if they told me I’d be suspended from work if I ate pastrami, I’m sorry Protzel’s Deli, I’m not coming in for any pastrami. But talking to Reyes now for the second time, I sense he’s brutally embarrassed by how this went down. He mentioned letting down his family. I think he’s been scared straight.

with a lot of guys,” Leveque said. “He’s able to be aggressive with it and not try and manipulate it to make it move. Guys want to see the movement and make it have that shape. Doesn’t always work like that. This grip locks it in deep in the hand and then just throw it with conviction.” Conviction came first. Confidence came later. Gomber worked on the curve the final months of the 2014 season but didn’t flip it in games. At FAU in the offseason, he threw the curve every day. He “fully soldout on that grip,” he said. He learned the pitch and by the beginning of May believed in it enough to throw it with less than two outs and a runner on third. He often got a strikeout with it. That vaulted him from a peripheral prospect in 2015 to No. 14 in Baseball America’s Top 30 Cardinals this spring. He came to big-league camp with the new pitch, but not looking to learn pitches from the major-league starters. He’s got his eye on something else. “I’m not trying to pick things up on the field because we’re all diferent pitchers,” Gomber said. “I like watching Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright do their thing, but I realize I’m not them. I’m never going to be Adam Wainwright or Jaime Garcia. I’m a different pitcher. So for me what I wanted to do is see what they do behind the scenes. This is basically premium access to some of the game’s greats for however long I’ll be up here. I can watch what they do on the field. Here I can see what they do of of it.” Gomber will start Wednesday’s afternoon game at Roger Dean Stadium opposite a former teammate, lefty Sean Labsen. He will also see in the other dugout the head coach who gave him a chance no other top program did and the pitching coach who helped him at that level and spotted the pitch that would take him to the next level. “I owe what I have to those guys right there,” Gomber said. “They gave me every opportunity. I hope they don’t lose another game. After this one.” Derrick Goold @dgoold on Twitter dgoold@post-dispatch.com

And there is much to be said about finding the positives in adversity. If you don’t grow from it, that’s a problem in itself. Reyes will be better of for going through this now, for it’ll make him a more mature big leaguer, a virtue, considering he’ll probably make the majors earlier than most kids. Reyes said Martinez taught him the importance of how one handles the daily routine of Major League Baseball. Staying consistent with preparation, never taking shortcuts just because you’re pitching well of late (because the guy in the batter’s box isn’t taking shortcuts in his preparation). And Martinez said Reyes “is not scared” of trying new approaches in practice. “He’s still learning,” said Gary LaRocque, the Cardinals’ director of player development. “Like with most pitchers, innings are important. Last year he put together a solid stretch, and by the end of the season, he ended up earning his way to the Arizona Fall League, which is a great experience, because he had to face more hitters deeper into the lineup, and that’s all part of the growth and the development. He’s handled that well, in terms of his presence on the mound, his demeanor, and his stuf has been solid. It’s just learning how to refine it all. “Bottom line is, as you get past A ball, and you step into Double- and Triple-A, it turns from projection to performance. He’s into that next step now.” They’re all waiting for him to take the toughest step. In the Cards’ clubhouse, there was a sheet of paper showing all the uniform numbers. With retired numbers, and the untouched Nos. 5, 51 and 57, most numbers are spoken for. But on the list, there’s a space between Tommy Pham’s No. 28 and the No. 30 of Jonathan Broxton. Reyes wears No. 29 because it’s his date of birth, Aug. 29, 1994. Here’s thinking he’ll be a St. Louis Cardinal by Aug. 29, 2016. Benjamin Hochman @hochman on Twitter bhochman@post-dispatch.com