Aroldis Chapman throws as hard as any pitcher in baseball. It’s not easy for batters to catch up to his fastballs, but when they do, basic physics tells you what can happen. What happened Wednesday night in a Cactus League game was a reminder of how dangerous the game can be.
Chapman suffered fractures above his left eye and nose after being struck by a ball hit by Royals catcher Salvador Perez in the bottom of the sixth inning. Chapman never lost consciousness and had movement in his extremities as he was attended to by medical personnel for more than 10 minutes. He was stabilized and removed from the field on a cart before being taken to Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center in Sun City for initial testing.
He was transferred to Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center for further testing and overnight observation.
Managers Bryan Price of the Reds and Ned Yost of the Royals conferred with the umpiring crew headed by Chris Guccione and decided to call the game with Kansas City leading 6-3.
Roy Smith, a Mets scout and former pitcher who was sitting behind home plate, told FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal that he had a clear view when Chapman was hit.
"It was a bullet," Smith said. "A missile. As bad as I’ve seen. I took one off the head myself, so I know. It’s as flush as I’ve ever seen. Usually guys turn their head a little bit. This was like right on.
"I was sitting next to (Reds exec) Cam Bonifay, my friend. I like grabbed him and turned around. I couldn’t look. The entire stadium went silent for the next 15 minutes …The players, you can imagine their reaction. It was really scary, it really was.
"This was like getting punched right in the face. It was straight on."
The outcome of a spring training game was of even less importance than usual.
“It was one of the more frightening, non-fun moments I’ve been a part of on the baseball field,” said Reds right fielder Jay Bruce. “I believe that the last thing on anyone’s mind on the field at that point was the game…There’s not really words to explain.
"I’m sure everyone is feeling… it’s terrible. It really is. It’s dangerous. It may just happen every once in a while but you never know. It’s completely inadvertent. Obviously none of that is happening on purpose. It’s just one of the dangers of the game.”
Chapman entered the game in the sixth inning, replacing starter Alfredo Simon. Chapman had control problems, walking four batters, but a double play kept the Royals off the board in the inning. Perez came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs.
The count was no balls, two strikes when Perez lined a shot right back at Chapman, who at 6 feet 4 has a full, elongated stride during his delivery.
Chapman had no chance to protect himself.
He immediately went to the ground, kicking and covering his face. Play was stopped as players and medical personnel from both sides rushed to Chapman’s aid. Cincinnati assistant trainer Tomas Vera, who also acts as a translator for Chapman, accompanied Chapman to the hospital.
“He was able to communicate. He was able to move his hands, his feet, his legs. I’m not a doctor so I don’t want to go much further than that, but it got him pretty flush just above the left eye,” said Price. “I know this isn’t as uncommon perhaps as we’d like it to be, but it was frightening. Certainly a frightening moment.”
Chapman signed with the Reds in 2010 after defecting from Cuba the previous year. He made his Major League debut in 2010 and has been a fixture in the Cincinnati bullpen ever since. He is a two-time National League All-Star. His fastball has routinely been clocked at more than 100 mph, the biggest weapon at his disposal as he has recorded 77 saves in 205 games. He has a career strikeout-per-nine innings rate of 14.7, including being over 15.3 each of the last two seasons.
The Reds expect to have an update on Chapman’s condition Thursday morning.