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Inbox: How long is Chapman controlled?

Inbox: How long is Chapman controlled?

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If Aroldis Chapman makes the Reds rotation to start the year, how does that affect his contract?
-- @Jeffdraeger34, via Twitter

If Chapman makes the team out of camp, his six-year, $30.25 million contract would be altered if he is eligible for arbitration after the 2012 season. That means his remaining three years of the contract would void and his salary for 2013 would become a bonus. It is likewise if he doesn't become arbitration-eligible before 2014.

This contract stipulation has seemed to have Reds fan concerned because I've gotten this question a lot lately. It's not as if the Reds didn't know this was included in the contract when Chapman was signed. The bottom line: Chapman is under club control for at least six years, no matter what. They didn't sign him to think about letting him get away in only three years.

I think the money issue will take a back seat to other issues this spring. Chapman has shown he's got big league stuff, but can he handle the cultural adjustments, big league life adjustments and the language barrier? They will also have to monitor his innings, his health and not overuse him. If those issues are resolved to satisfaction and he's deemed ready for the Majors, the club knows Chapman would put fans in the seats since Chapmania has only increased since he signed in January. And don't discount the never-ending thirst for what's been the elusive winning season in Cincinnati.

Because of off-days, the fifth starter doesn't get as many starts in April, and that could also weigh in the decision. Before Monday's setback of back spasms, Chapman's performance was more than good enough to make the team. Now, we'll have to wait and see if he can get back in enough time.

Which player, aside from Chapman, has been most surprising?
-- @ewl115, via Twitter

I'd have to go with 2009 first-round Draft pick Mike Leake. I knew the right-hander was talented, but I didn't expect him to handle hitters as well as he has. This is not only his first big league Spring Training, but it's his first Spring Training, period. If not for Chapman, a lot more buzz would center on this guy this spring. If a spot were to open on the rotation this season, and he keeps performing well, I envision him being on the short list of candidates. I'd also note that tall righty Logan Ondrusek has also been very impressive.

Is it really the right thing to leave Brandon Phillips in the four-hole in the lineup? Isn't he more of a No. 2 guy in reality?
-- @BaronBoss, via Twitter

I get this question a lot, too. Phillips isn't the stereotypical cleanup hitter, but he's the best choice the Reds have. He can hit for power and drive in runs and can hit both righties and lefties. He had 98 RBIs last season and 94 RBIs and 30 homers in 2008. Dusty Baker also made a great point earlier in camp that hitting Phillips fourth ahead of Scott Rolen could mean better pitches for Rolen since Phillips has good speed. Phillips' style of hitting doesn't lend as well to the No. 2 spot, nor did the 21 double plays he grounded into last season.

Have a question about the Reds?
Mark SheldonE-mail your query to MLB.com Reds beat reporter Mark Sheldon for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
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When do we start worrying about Joey Votto and Phillips?
-- @jacobs_jeff, via Twitter

Perhaps late April or May, but definitely not during Spring Training. Votto had slow starts in camp each of the past three years. He rallied to hit over .300 by the end of spring last year and went on to be the Reds' best hitter during the regular season. Phillips also had a good year last year. Remember, pitchers have even more of an advantage in spring, and there are many pitchers that haven't been seen before by big league hitters.

What position does Juan Francisco play, and will he be on the Major League club when the season starts?
-- Annie, Ft. Thomas, Ky.

Francisco is a third baseman normally, but the club wants to see if he can handle left field, too. With his power bat, it'd be a way to get him into the Majors since Rolen is obviously locked in at third for the next three seasons.

With Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo in the last year of their contracts and a bunch of talented young pitchers in the waiting, do you think that the Reds will try to bring one or both back for 2011 to provide a veteran presence in the rotation? If the Reds don't, the potential candidates for the 2011 rotation will be pretty young with Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez, Chapman, Leake, Travis Wood, Matt Maloney, etc.
-- Jon, Honolulu, Hawaii

There's enough to think about with 2010, let alone 2011. Both Harang and Arroyo have club options for next season. Harang's is worth $12.75 million, and Arroyo's is worth $11 million. Both have $2 million buyouts. But the potential depth the Reds seem to have in the rotation down the road could give them the some flexibility. Much will depend on the performances this season of Bailey, Cueto and Chapman, and the health of Volquez.

Do you think the Reds would (or should) keep pitcher Micah Owings as primarily a pinch-hitter and occasional long reliever? They kept a third catcher in Javier Valentin as a pinch-hitter at one time.
-- Terry R., Tell City, Ind.

If Owings makes the team as either a starter or reliever, it will be primarily because of his arm and his pitching performance. But his ability to hit will be a factor because he can stretch the bench and preserve the bullpen by hitting for himself. If Owings is vying for the final bullpen spot, he has a disadvantage against Mike Lincoln. Owings has Minor League options left, and Lincoln is owed $2 million this season and has no options.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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