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Chapman could face batters as soon as Wednesday

PITTSBURGH -- The timetable for getting Reds closer Aroldis Chapman in front of hitters again seems to be accelerating even quicker than expected.

Chapman, who is trying to return from being hit in the face by a line drive last month, could likely throw live batting practice to hitters as soon as Wednesday at PNC Park. Originally, the club was targeting this milestone by the end of the road trip in Atlanta.

"It's hopefully the last thing he needs to do before he goes out there and pitches in games [on a rehab assignment]," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Monday.

Chapman threw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Sunday in Chicago. The team wanted to make sure he still felt good before committing to his facing hitters on Wednesday. If he isn't ready, then Chapman would have another bullpen session on Wednesday and face hitters on Saturday.

"He's thrown all of his pitches -- fastball, slider, changeup. There's really no concern at this point in time that his arm and body aren't ready to pitch," Price said. "But like anything else -- he threw yesterday. We want to find out how he responds today in his game of catch."

Chapman sustained fractures above his left eye and nose in a horrific March 19 moment where he was struck by a line drive from Royals catcher Salvador Perez. He had surgery to repair the injuries and has made dramatic improvement since the incident.

There's no debating that Chapman is itching to get back to pitching with the Reds.

"He loves being with his teammates. I've never seen him so happy to be a baseball player than I've seen this year," Price said. "He's embraced his job, even to a completely new level. I've enjoyed seeing that process evolve. I would absolutely say he wants to pitch. I think he understands there is process as far as going out and pitching in some rehab games just to make sure he is sharp, to make sure he that he faces hitters again for the first time since that incident and it validates that he's ready to pitch for us here."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
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