Call it a comeback: Aroldis Chapman faces live hitters, fastball is ‘electrifying’
It only has been a month and a handful of days since Aroldis Chapman was struck in the face by a line drive during a March 19 spring training game, but if the only thing a person could base his health upon was how the Cincinnati Reds fireballer looked facing live batters during a mound session on Wednesday, they would be hard-pressed to believe that Chapman suffered such a horrible injury such a short time ago.
Chapman’s mound work on Wednesday marked the first time he has faced live batters since the incident, but he remarkably looked no worse for wear after suffering facial fractures when he was violently struck (is there any other way) with a ball off the bat of Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez, an injury that was so severe surgery was required where a metal plate to be inserted above his eye.
The needed surgery resulted in Chapman posting the below grisly photograph documenting the disturbing row of surgical staples spanning his scalp that were, uh, stapled into his head.
GAH! Bear in mind the above photo was taken just over a month ago. Sheesh.
This makes where Chapman is in his recovery that much more remarkable. In his outing on Wednesday, he threw 27 pitches from behind a protective screen, less than a week removed from when he was cleared to do so.
“I felt pretty good,” Chapman told reporters through teammate Brayan Pena, who was translating for the pitcher. “I didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary. I just felt very good.”
And what onlookers witnessed left them pretty amazed and quite impressed.
“He threw all his pitches,” manager Bryan Price said reporters, via ESPN.com. “He was very sharp, good velocity. Good slider, good changeup. Looked like midseason form.”
Pena was among the hitters who faced Chapman during the session.
“He was attacking the strike zone,” Pena said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “His fastball was electrifying. It was exciting to see him go back there. His confidence was very good. That was a great sign.”
Despite how good Chapman looked, Price stressed the team will proceed with caution as Chapman acclimates himself to pitching again, physically as well as mentally.
“We want to make sure he gets a chance to face hitters what would be consider fairly normal protocol in spring training,” Price said. “That being said, we’re not at the front end of a spring training template. He’s not a month away from activation. If everything goes well, he’ll throw in the Atlanta and then be off on a rehab after that.”
Price said Chapman was the one who asked for the screen.
“We thought it was good idea,” Price said. “It’s a little bit of different animal when you’re facing your guys because typically most of your pitchers are going to be away from the hitter. You don’t want to hit your own guys throwing live batting practice.
“The balls that get smoked up the middle are pitches out over the plate. It just made sense. We were a little concerned to go out there the first time without some protection. It’s an inevitable step that he’s going to throw to live hitters in the batting practice or in games without any protection.”
Chapman, meanwhile, feels pretty good about where he is at this stage.
“To be honest with you, I felt very good,” he said. “I been feeling this way since probably a couple of weeks ago. I’m just trying to continue, to improve, I know it’s not going to be easy. Now, I’m going to rehab in the minor leagues. It’s a long process.
“Throwing I felt great. I feel like nothing happened. I was very happy with my performance.”
Not only should Chapman feel happy, he should feel extremely lucky to be out on the mound in the first place. What a remarkable comeback.