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Chapman incident puts focus back on safety

Reds closer struck in head by line drive, but never lost consciousness, team says

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- For all the precautionary moves baseball has taken to protect the well-being of its players, one danger that has not been eliminated is the one presented by the line drive hit back at the pitcher.

Wednesday night at Surprise Stadium, that danger was demonstrated all too clearly when Aroldis Chapman, closer for the Cincinnati Reds, was struck in the forehead by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez.

Chapman fell to the ground, both hands covering his face. He remained there for several minutes, while emergency medical personnel treated him. Chapman was eventually removed from the field on a cart and was taken to a hospital.

The Reds said Chapman was taken to Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center in Sun City, where tests indicated fractures above his left eye and nose. He was transferred to Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, where he will undergo further testing. Chapman will be kept overnight for observation.

"He was able to communicate and move his hands and legs," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I'm not a doctor, so I don't want to go any further than that. But it got him pretty flush, just above the left eye, is what it looks like."

The play occurred in the bottom of the sixth, on an 0-2 pitch, with Cincinnati leading, 6-3. The velocity of the pitch, as indicated on the scoreboard, was 99 mph. Perez hit the pitch solidly. The sound the ball made striking Chapman's head was both frightening and audible throughout the park.

After Chapman was taken from the field, the managers of the two teams and the umpiring crew huddled and decided to halt the game. It was the correct decision, a decision that was respectful of both Chapman's injury, and the potential seriousness of the situation.

"You just can't find it in your heart to go out there and play," Price said. "Baseball is a game to be played with a lot of joy in your heart and determination and focus. And I don't think anybody was able to do that after that moment."

Major League Baseball approved a padded cap designed to help protect pitchers from potentially dangerous line drives in January, and made them available on a voluntary basis in Spring Training. Reaction by pitchers to the use of the approved headgear, which may not have helped in Chapman's case, has been mixed so far.

"[That was] the most frightening thing I've ever been a part of," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said. "I mean, as hard as he throws and as hard as that ball was hit off the bat, I just hope for the best.

"There's not really words to explain how everyone is feeling right now. It's terrible. It really is. It's dangerous. Baseball aside, this is people's lives you're talking about. This is dangerous. This is something that is so unfortunate. You don't want to see it happen to anyone."

And yet, it happened Wednesday night in a Cactus League game to one of the game's most dominant closers. It was a reminder of one part of the game where real danger cannot be legislated out of existence.

"I know this isn't quite as uncommon as we'd like it to be," Price said of the incident. "But if was frightening, certainly a frightening moment."

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for
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