Three weeks after suffering multiple facial fractures after being struck a line drive off the bat of Kansas City's Salvador Perez, Cincinnati Reds left-hander Aroldis Chapman provided the first major update on his condition prior to Friday's game.
Speaking through a translator, the hard-throwing lefty announced that he's been cleared by doctors to throw his first bullpen session on Monday, which is obviously a big step forward. He couldn't provide an update on his timetable for a potential return to game action, but everything seems to be on track physically.
Only one person can answer that question, and according to Chapman he doesn't feel like there will be any residual effects.
One thing he's not expecting to be a hurdle is his return mentally and any worry about a repeat of the incident.
"Everybody asks me that question, everybody asks the same thing and I know me, and I know that I don't think I'm going to have any issue with that," Chapman said according to Reds assistant trainer and interpreter Tomas Vera. "I've thought about the way I feel, the way I am, I don't think this is going to effect me."
It's easy to be skeptical of that response, but one guy who isn't doubting it is Reds catcher Brayan Pena. Pena was the guy behind on the plate the night Chapman was injured. He was among the first to attend to him, and he's seen every step of the recovery so far, and he feels there's nothing has changed about Chapman's mindset or confidence.
"I'm speechless, to be honest with you," Pena said on Friday. "What I saw from him (Thursday), he was throwing probably 97 or 96 mph on the flat ground that we were playing. I was impressed. After that we ran three-quarter poles and he was very fresh, very strong."
"I don't throw that hard -- I was just throwing it a little harder back to him to see his reaction and it was like playing catch with my son," Pena said. "He started talking smack to me -- he said, 'is that all you got?'"
All signs are positive, but concerns will remain until Chapman gets on the field and faces live hitters for the first time. That's the biggest hurdle to come, and it sounds like it may not be that far off based on Friday's information.
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