Cincinnati Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman suffered a potentially career-threatening injury when he was struck by a line drive during spring training, but "The Cuban Missile" is now back in the majors after less than two months, according to the Reds' official Twitter feed:
Chapman reinstated from DL, Partch optioned to Louisville.— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) May 10, 2014
C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer provides an update on how Chapman will be used initially:
Bryan Price said Aroldis Chapman will move back into the closers role immediately— ctrent (@ctrent) May 10, 2014
Chapman has been one of the most dominant closers in baseball over the past couple years with consecutive 38-save seasons and a fastball that routinely exceeds 100 mph. More of the same was expected out of him in 2014; however, things changed significantly on March 19.
The injury could have been catastrophic, but Chapman was actually quite lucky. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Chapman only came away with a mild concussion:
#Reds doctor Kremchek says Chapman will undergo surgery today. Plate could be inserted near eye. Mild concussion. “very lucky guy.”— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 20, 2014
Chapman ultimately underwent surgery to repair facial fractures suffered during the incident:
#Reds: Chapman had surgery tonight to insert titanium plate to stabilize fracture. Per team doctor, Chapman can begin working out …— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 21, 2014
After seeing this photo of Chapman courtesy of his Instagram account following the surgery, though, few could have imagined that he would be back in action so quickly (warning: image is graphic):
Before long, Chapman was back throwing batting practice and preparing for a minor league rehab assignment.
Just a couple weeks after the injury, Chapman released this video of himself playing catch:
By May 1, Chapman was ready for in-game action and he didn't miss a beat in a fantastic outing for the Class-A Dayton Dragons, per C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer:
Chapman was quickly promoted to Triple-A Louisville, but he was greeted with a rude awakening in the form of a disastrous first outing, according to Eric Crawford of WDRB in Louisville:
Chapman’s line: 33 pitches, 21 strikes, 5 runs allowed, 4 hits, 1 HBP, 2/3 inning pitched. Four pitches of 101, one of 100.— Eric Crawford (@ericcrawford) May 6, 2014
Despite Chapman's struggles he said through Spanish interpreter Rigo Febles that he felt good about his first Triple-A outing, per Michael Grant of The Courier-Journal.
He said he's happy to be out there throwing again. His fastball was good. He didn't have the control tonight, but he still felt good physically. ... He didn't have any flashbacks or thoughts about (the injury). (The ball) did go over his head, but it didn't hit him. He didn't have any ill thoughts about it. ... He feels like he's ready to go. He's got to throw a couple more innings, but the decision is up to the Reds.
Chapman followed that up with yet another poor performance in Louisville as he allowed three runs in just one-third of an inning on May 7. Even so, the Reds were apparently encouraged enough by his progress to recall him.
Some might be concerned about Chapman's psyche after such a traumatic experience. He maintains that he feels comfortable, though, and there is no reason to doubt his insistence.
Perhaps the bigger thing to worry about is Chapman's all-around effectiveness. He missed the entire first month of the season as well as the latter portion of spring training, so he is well behind every other pitcher in the league in terms of preparation.
How should the Reds utilize Chapman for now?
It will also be interesting to see how Reds manager Bryan Price decides to utilize him. Jonathan Broxton has done an excellent job as Cincinnati's closer in Chapman's absence, so the best course of action may be to keep Broxton in that role for now while Chapman eases himself back in by pitching in low-pressure situations at first.
Chapman is among the best closers in baseball when he is on his game, but he most definitely needs some time to get back in proper form.
Regardless of how Chapman is used it is absolutely fantastic to see him back in action after suffering an injury that could have cost him his career or even his life.
The fact that he is once again a major leaguer truly speaks to his toughness and determination.
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