Surgery successful, Chapman's recovery begins
Reds say closer could throw in 10-14 days, pitch in game conditions in 4-6 weeks
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds closer Aroldis Chapman underwent surgery on Thursday evening to repair a fracture above his left eye, one day after being hit on the face by a line drive Wednesday night from the bat of Royals catcher Salvador Perez.
A metal plate was placed on the bone above Chapman's eye to stabilize the injury. Chapman also suffered a nose fracture from the incident. Team medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek said that the hard-throwing left-hander could begin working out in 10-14 days and may be ready to pitch in game conditions in 4-6 weeks.
Dr. Ed Joganic, a cranial facial plastic surgeon, performed the two-and-a-half-hour surgery at Phoenix's Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. The Reds expect Chapman to remain in the hospital for another day or two.
Kremchek said Chapman was awake and alert earlier in the day.
"[He] knows what's going on," Kremchek said Thursday afternoon. "The idea is to get that fixed and hopefully within a couple of weeks, he can start exercises and start throwing and hopefully be back in six to eight weeks with contact. The problem is you don't want him to get back to contact or pitching too soon, because just in case another accident or some type of collision happens or a baseball hits him again.
"He has a very mild concussion, no other brain injury. His eyes are fine. Right now, he's a very lucky guy. He was very well taken care of here in Arizona. He's at the right place, the right hospital. He's got some very good doctors taking care of him."
When asked if Chapman would be able to pitch for the Reds again this season, Kremchek replied "absolutely."
Chapman was pitching in the sixth inning against the Royals in Surprise when a 99-mph 0-2 pitch was hit back to the mound by Perez. Struck in the face above the left eye, Chapman immediately went down and could be seen facedown and kicking his legs. Medical personnel from both clubs immediately rushed to his aid. He was immobilized and taken off of the field by stretcher.
One of the first players to arrive at the mound was Reds catcher Brayan Pena, who also visited Chapman in the hospital on Wednesday night and spoke to him on the phone Thursday morning. Pena felt Chapman was in good spirits under the circumstances.
"He appreciates so much the fans' prayers, especially our teammates, our coaching staff and everybody around -- how much support and how much love he received and got from all of us," Pena said. "He wanted to make sure, too, that I passed on [his appreciation] to the Royals organization -- especially all the players with them on the field. He was very excited, very happy talking to me and joking to me. He was talking a lot about Cuban jokes. That's good. That means his memory is still working pretty good."
Like Chapman, Pena hails from Cuba and defected from the country. When Chapman arrived in the United States and began working out in South Florida, it was Pena who caught his bullpen sessions.
On Thursday, Pena was still digesting what he saw the previous night.
"I'm still in shock, to be honest with you," Pena said. "I still picture that in my mind, because it's very fresh, you know? ... You heard from people and stuff like that, but it's not the same when you see it live and when you see it up close. It's one of the things, I blame myself a little bit. I should have called a slider or called for a changeup. That's your thought process. Everything goes through your mind and you're looking for answers. 'What if I was little bit outside the strike zone? Or what if I had called a slider?' You put yourself into that guilty feeling.
"Chappy was the one who told me, 'Hey, it's not your fault. I should have thrown it slower.' I'm the one that's feeling very bad about it, and he's the one cheering me up. He's the one that's in the hospital with that very tough situation."
Perez was one of several players to visit Chapman at the hospital after Wednesday's game.
"He was doing pretty good. I saw him afterward, went to the hospital. I talked to him and there were a lot of players there," Perez said. "He talked to everybody and knew who every person was. He was doing better."
Perez was very upset about the play and could be seen rushing to Chapman's side upon reaching first base after the line drive. He was among those on his knees on the field.
"For sure, I feel terrible," Perez said. "I didn't want to hit anybody. It's part of the game, but I just felt real bad when that happened last night."
With another game scheduled for Thursday afternoon vs. the Rangers, the Reds were forced to continue with business as usual, and they held their regular morning workout. Before taking the field, Reds manager Bryan Price held a clubhouse meeting with his players to update them on Chapman's condition.
"I think everyone here realizes that we can say whatever we want, in the end, what's in the forefront of everyone's mind now is Chappy," Price said. "It's hard to compartmentalize at this point in time.
"The bottom line is we know everyone's focus is on Aroldis and his health. I wasn't going to try to take the focus away from Aroldis. We're all there. We're all in the same place. We're going to go have a workday. We're going to play a game. Chappy will be heavy on our minds. We'll endure and we'll move forward, but we are really all very emotional about what transpired. We just want to stay connected with what he's doing and how he is coming along."
Obviously, the Reds will be without Chapman on Opening Day, and they have dealt with myriad injuries to the pitching staff throughout Spring Training. Four members of the rotation have been injured this spring and late-inning relievers Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall are also behind schedule because of injuries.
Price wasn't ready to discuss the team's plans for moving forward without Chapman.
"Whatever is going to happen, we're going to have 25 guys here at the end of Spring Training, and that's going to be the hand that we're dealt," Price said. "And we're going to go out there and we're going to compete and bust our tails to be excellent. Who those 25 guys are at this point in time, I don't know. I don't have any idea. I haven't really thought at all about the layout of the bullpen. That will come in time. At this point in time, the focus is really on Aroldis' health."