It’s a simple question that the Cincinnati Reds brass has been able to avoid until now. The bullpen has been awful the past month and the starting pitching has been holding the team together.

Why can’t the Reds use their new high priced toy at their biggest position of need? Why can’t Aroldis Chapman come out of the bullpen?

The starting pitching is currently the motor running the Reds ship.

Bronson Arroyo has been brilliant of late, he is 7-1 in his last eight decisions. Aaron Harang has shook off his early season struggles to drop his ERA three full runs over the last two months. Johnny Cueto has been able to somewhat control his pitch counts and has a 7-2 record and an ERA under four to show for it.

Then there is the rookie phenom Mike Leake.

He’s had 11 quality starts in 14 appearances. Insane for a guy that skipped the minors completely. Sam LeCure has been decent with the odd luck of continually facing the other teams ace, but he is the odd man out when help arrives.

The excellent starting pitching has occurred without the services of Homer Bailey and Edinson Volquez.

Speaking of Volquez, he is making great progress. Less than 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery, the right-hander thinks he’s days away from returning to the majors.

“I feel great right now over there on the mound,” he said. “My arm is ready to go.”

Wednesday, Volquez took another step toward getting back to the surprising Reds with five solid innings for the Louisville Bats, the Triple-A affiliate.

The 26-year-old allowed one run on three hits, striking out one and walking none. His fastball reached 96 on the radar gun and all the reports on his arm have been positive.

It’s easy to forget, but this guy was an All-Star in ’08—posting a 17-6 record with a 3.21 ERA. Volquez anticipates he’ll make two more starts at Triple-A before moving up. He should have a starting spot served to him on a silver platter when he returns.

Bailey’s shoulder sounds like it might be worse than previously expected. The Reds have been very quiet on the injury and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Bets are off right now for when Bailey returns.

Which leads us to the pitcher most thought would make the biggest splash for the ’10 Reds. It took only six weeks of Spring Training to realize Aroldis Chapman has the potential to be a No. 1 starter in the future.

He is a modest 5-5 with an ERA of 4.12 in 13 starts for AAA Louisville. The fastball has been clocked at a sizzling 100 to 102 mph on occasion—hence his 79 K’s in 67 innings.

Yet he has struggled mightily to keep his pitch count down and has reached the seventh inning once in his 13 starts.

Clearly he has the talent to have great success a the Major League level. But how much better would the bullpen be with a 100 mph flame thrower left-hander that hitters have never faced in the seventh inning?

Besides, checkout the list of other pitchers that started their Major League careers in the minors:

Adam Wainright made his first 63 appearances from the bullpen.
Roy Oswalt 8 bullpen appearances to start career.
Mark Buehrle 25 bullpen appearances as a rookie.
Derek Lowe 278 career bullpen appearances
Zach Grienke 41 career bullpen appearances

The pitch count issue would vanish while making sure he doesn’t throw too many innings in the process.

The Reds would upgrade its biggest position of need without making any sort of trade. Chapman gets a taste of the big league life and will be able to learn plenty about the game sitting in the bullpen with Spanish speaking reliever, and 11 year veteran CoCo Cordero.

We all know Chapman is the future of the franchise.

The Red Legs threw $30M his way for a reason. It just so happens that the ’10 Reds are actually competing for a play-off spot this year ( foreign concept right?).

Who thinks Johnny Gomes will have 50 RBI almost a month before before the All-Star break again next year? Or that Scott Rolen can put up numbers he did 10 years ago again? Or that Joey Votto doesn’t have another mental relapse?

My point is simple, Cincinnati baseball in the lost decade was a “wait till you see these young prospects next year” approach. What else are you supposed to do when your 15 games out?

This year is different.

The pieces of the puzzle are more aligned than ever since the ’90’s. Why not use your high priced toy in the greatest position of need? Give Chapman a shot in a middle relief role and see what the 22 year-old flamethrower can do with it.

What’s the alternative? Bring up Carlos Fisher or Enerio Del Rosario again?

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