While there remain significant mental hurdles to overcome for Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban left-hander looked sharp Monday during a 25-pitch bullpen session, his first appearance on the mound since being struck in the head by a line drive during a spring training game on March 19.
“He threw the ball outstanding,” said Reds manager Bryan Price. “He threw all of his pitches, including his slider. He was extremely enthusiastic and happy to be out there, as we all were. It was exciting. I think facing batters will be the biggest hurdle for him initially, but we haven’t seen any reason to feel like he’s other than optimistic about getting back on the mound.”
Chapman was struck in the forehead by a liner off the bat of the Royals’ Salvador Perez and suffered fractures above his eye and nose and a mild concussion. He later had surgery to insert a plate and screws to stabilize the fractures. Chapman regularly wears a stocking cap to cover the staples used to close the incision.
The next step for Chapman is to throw live batting practice with game situations. But Price said Chapman will throw a few more bullpens before throwing BP. What’s yet to be determined is if Chapman will throw from behind a screen, at least initially. Price isn’t a huge fan of screens since they often can impact a pitcher’s mechanics.
“It will really end up with where he’s comfortable,” said Price. “If he wants to throw with a screen in front of him that first time facing hitters, that’s up to him. Sometimes, the screen forces you to try to throw the ball and then finish behind it. It can affect you in a negative way.”
The Reds will wait to see how Chapman responds to Monday’s outing before determining next steps. Chapman says he’s ready to move forward.
“I’ll do whatever they decide to do with me,” Chapman said through interpreter Tomas Vera. “I have to wait for the doctor’s decision, and Bryan’s decision. Whatever they tell me to do, I’ll do it. I feel good physically, mentally, and my arm feels really well.”