Nearly two months have passed since Aroldis Chapman's career was put on hold after he was struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of Salvador Perez. As a result, Chapman suffered multiple facial fractures and underwent immediate surgery which left us with startling photos of the aftermath.
It probably feels like two years ago to the 26-year-old left-hander, but his comeback is complete now after the Reds activated him from the disabled list on Saturday afternoon. He'll be back in their bullpen and ready to roll if needed for their matchup against the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.
Chapman officially returned to the mound on May 1 during a rehab assignment with the Class A Dayton Dragons. He impressed right away physically, pitching a scoreless inning with two strikeouts and no hits allowed. Also notable, he was right back to hitting 101 mph on the radar gun, showing that the down time had no effect on his velocity.
Any questions about his mental approach were answered as well.
"I'm really positive about this. I feel really normal, I have a lot of confidence in myself, I don't have any fear or anything," Chapman said afterwards, according to Reds assistant athletic trainer Tomas Vera, who served as his interpreter. "There's no hesitation, I feel really normal. I think feeling positive like I am right now is what's giving me confidence on the mound right now. I have no fear at all."
After another successful outing in Dayton, Chapman was promoted to Triple-A Louisville. That's where he ran into his first real hurdle during rehab, allowing eight runs on seven hits with two walks, a hit batter, two strikeouts over two outings.The Reds are willing to overlook that, however, as his velocity and confidence held strong. It's just a matter of hitting his spots, which they hope he'll be able to do quickly after his return.
For his career, Chapman has converted 77 saves in 90 opportunities while posting a 2.40 ERA, and recording 324 strikeouts in 198 2/3 innings.
There's no doubt the Reds could use the stability in their bullpen as they currently rank 14th in the NL in relief ERA. Acting closer Jonathan Broxton has been their most effective reliever so far, allowing only his first run in nine appearances during his blown save on Friday night. A healthy and effective Chapman would allow manager Bryan Price to slot Broxton into the eighth inning or sooner if needed, which obviously strengthens their late game set up and makes them a much stronger contender in the NL Central. .
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