March 20, 2014, 10:51 pm
I just saw the video of Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman getting struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Pena during a spring training game last night in Surprise, Arizona.
The video isn’t for the weak of heart. I can tell you that I’ve never seen a ball go off the bat that fast. Chapman had no time to react. The game stopped right then and there and Chapman was taken off the field on a stretcher. The Reds, Royals and the fans stood in stunned silence. Most devastated of all was Perez who raced to the mound after taking his base.
Chapman sustained facial fractures, will undergo surgery, and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. All things considered, he is lucky. It is worth noting that the only MLB player ever to be killed by a ball during a big league game was named Ray Chapman, an infielder for the Cleveland Indians who in 1920 was struck in the head by a ball pitched by Carl Mays of the New York Yankees.
Chapman, who defected from Cuba in 2009, has pitched with the Reds since 2010 and has saved 38 games in each of the past two seasons with a fastball over 100 MPH. Jonathan Broxton, a one-time closer for the Dodgers and Royals, will likely take over the closer role in Chapman’s absence.
Even if the Cuban southpaw is physically able to pitch in 2 months, it is questionable if he will be mentally able to do so. When a pitcher is struck in the face with a line drive, he is rarely the same again. The most dramatic example of which was the late Herb Score. After leading the AL in strikeouts in his first two seasons with the Cleveland Indians in 1955 and 1956, his career effectively ended on May 7, 1957 when he was struck in the face on a line drive by Gil McDougald.
But if Chapman could survive Cuba’s Castro then maybe he can overcome this obstacle too. With that, I wish Aroldis Chapman a speedy recovery.