SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman broke bones above his left eye and nose when he was hit by a line drive Wednesday night, the latest frightening injury to a pitcher struck in the head by a batted ball.
He was scheduled to have surgery Thursday to insert a plate and screws above his left eye. He is hospitalized at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix. The Reds say they hope to get him back throwing from the mound in six to eight weeks.
First-year manager Bryan Price said Chapman was conscious and talking as he was taken off the field during Cincinnati’s spring training game against the Kansas City Royals.
The exhibition was called after an 8-minute delay with Kansas City leading 6-3.
“Not good,” Price said. “He left the field on a stretcher, took a line drive just above his left eye is what it looks like — a contusion, a laceration, and certainly needs to be taken to the hospital and checked. We’ve got Tomas Vera, an assistant trainer, is going to be with him. And then we’ll get our updates from there.”
The hard-throwing left-hander was struck by Salvador Perez’s liner with two outs in the sixth inning — the pitch was clocked at 99 mph. Chapman crumbled to the ground, face down, his legs flailing. The ball caromed into the third base dugout. Medical personnel, including Royals Dr. Vincent Key, rushed onto the field. Blood could be seen on the mound.
Perez put his hands on his helmet before reaching first base. He immediately went to the mound where players from both teams huddled as the 26-year-old Cuban reliever was being attended to in an eerily silent stadium. An ambulance’s siren could be heard in the background while Chapman was loaded onto the stretcher.
“It was an absolute bullet that Sal hit,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s just a real sickening feeling for everybody.”
Players from both teams kneeled, some bowing their heads and crossing themselves in prayer.
Chapman was taken to Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center in Sun City. He was then transferred to Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center.
Perez appeared to be in tears as he left the field, and first baseman Eric Hosmer hugged him. Perez quickly left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters. Hosmer hit a line drive off the head of Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb last June. Cobb sustained a concussion.
Playing right field, Reds teammate Jay Bruce heard the ball hit Chapman.
“It was one of the more frightening and non-fun moments I’ve been a part of on the baseball field,” he said.
After Chapman was driven off to the waiting ambulance, Price and Yost met with the umpires.
“It was really a mutual agreement,” crew chief Chris Guccione said. “Players were rattled. The staff was rattled. The umpires were rattled. We figured it was best, along with both teams in agreement, that the game should end.”
Yost said neither he nor his players wanted to keep playing. Price felt the same way.
“You can’t find it in your heart to go out there and play,” he said.
Oakland pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who had emergency surgery after he was struck in the head by a line drive in September 2012, urged caution in a post on Twitter.
“All reporting at this point means zilch, until he gets a scan,” he said in a tweet.
Chapman, who throws a 100 mph fastball, had walked four Royals in the inning before being injured.
The two-time All-Star had 38 saves for the Reds last season.
When reporters walked into the Royals clubhouse, third baseman Mike Moustakas asked a team official to request that they leave.
“No one wants to talk,” Moustakas said.
In January, Major League Baseball approved a protective cap for pitchers following several terrifying scenes similar to this one in the last few years, including Toronto’s J.A. Happ, who sustained a skull fracture.
The heavier and bigger hats were available for testing during spring training on a voluntary basis, but the cap apparently would not have helped Chapman in this case.
“I know this isn’t uncommon as we would like it to be, but it was frightening,” Price said. “Certainly frightening.”