Aroldis Chapman's a tough son of a gun, he's proven that to all of us. Chapman, the flame-throwing Cincinnati Reds closer, returned to the mound Thursday, six weeks after taking a line drive to the face in spring training.
It was a scary scene on March 19, one that Chapman escaped relatively unharmed. He required surgery to fix his face, but didn't suffer any brain damage and only a "mild" concussion.
He looked a lot like himself in his first rehab appearance Thursday night for the Dayton Dragons, the Reds' Single-A affiliate. Chapman pitched one inning, struck out two, didn't allowed a hit and brought the radar gun to 101 mph. He's thrown faster before, but for a guy who had staples in his head six weeks ago, hitting 101 is fantastic.
After the game, he told C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer:
"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."
Seeing a pitcher hit 101 on the radar gun was a treat for the Dragons. Announcers said Chapman's was the fastest pitch ever thrown at their ballpark. The scoreboard isn't even meant to display triple digits, so this is how his 101 pitch looked:
That face on the billboard? That's how we should all feel about Chapman's return.
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