Rays can empathize with Aroldis' injury
Tampa Bay saw share of hit pitchers in 2013; Hanigan was Reds teammate
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Aroldis Chapman's taking a line drive to the face brought well wishes for the Reds closer from inside the Rays' clubhouse and also brought back memories of 2013, when the Rays twice saw pitchers get struck in the head by batted balls.
Chapman, who was hit by a Salvador Perez line drive during Wednesday night's Reds-Royals contest, was scheduled to have surgery on Thursday afternoon to repair a fracture above his left eye. Reports indicated a metal plate would be placed on the bone above Chapman's eye to stabilize the injury. Chapman also sustained a nose fracture.
Catcher Ryan Hanigan spent seven seasons with the Reds before coming to the Rays in an offseason trade.
"I just wish him the best, you know," Hanigan said.
"That's just one of those things, it's just unfortunate," he added. "I don't know what to say. I hope he recovers fully. And I send him some good vibes."
Hanigan noted that Chapman did not have a follow-through motion that would increase his risk of being hit.
"He's a pretty athletic guy," Hanigan said. "He's pretty quick. So fielding-wise, he's not like a slow-reaction guy. I mean, the guy smoked it. He just didn't have any time. I'm just glad it didn't hit him square in the eye. I don't know the extent of it, but it sounds like he'll be OK vision-wise; brain-injury-wise, things look OK. So that's good."
The Rays play the Reds in Cincinnati in April. Hanigan said he would reach out to Chapman if possible.
"I'm sure he's getting treatment and the surgery right now," Hanigan said. "I'll at least send my regards through some of the guys, one way or the other, for sure."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he heard about Chapman's injury but chose not to watch it.
"It's awful," Maddon said. "It obviously hurts him and that team. He's such a big part of what they do. So I really don't need to see it."
When asked if he had a solution to help pitchers avoid being hit, Maddon said: "I don't know the answers. Fortunately, it happens very infrequently."
Still, the Rays grew familiar with the infrequent in 2013. First when Desmond Jennings lined a ball off the head of Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ at Tropicana Field on May 7.
Happ remained on the ground for 10 minutes, but he never lost consciousness and actually managed to wave to the crowd when carted off on a stretcher by paramedics.
Jennings wished Chapman well and expressed empathy for Perez. He was once in Perez's shoes.
"Because you don't know what kind of damage you've done," Jennings said. "You're always thinking about baseball, but it's not that important compared to real life."
Jennings gets paid to swing the bat and get on base, which brings inherent risks.
"You're up there trying to hit the ball hard up the middle," Jennings said. "I mean, you can't control where you hit the ball. You control the swing, but you can't control where you hit it. It's tough, not knowing if you ended somebody's career, or if you messed them up to where they aren't the same person. You don't know the result of what you've done.
"I talked to [Happ] once he got out of The Trop, I talked to him for a minute. No hard feelings, anything like that. I was just happy he was able to make a full recovery. He doesn't have anything lingering. With Chapman you don't know if he's going to see well again. Baseball's not the important thing right now. It's the real-life situation."
The second incident involving the Rays came when Cobb was struck in the head by a liner hit by Kansas City's Eric Hosmer on June 15 at Tropicana Field.
"I saw [Chapman get hit] on a highlight [reel at] about 1:30 this afternoon," said Cobb, allowing that it did dredge up some memories.
"I can't believe it's already happened again," Cobb added. "I wouldn't say I'm naive to the fact that it wouldn't happen again, but this quickly is pretty amazing."
While a protective hat probably would not have prevented Chapman's injuries, Cobb wondered aloud why a protective hat had not been available after one was approved by Major League Baseball during the offseason.
Cobb said he expected to see one in the Rays' training room to test out this spring but had not thus far.
"Just throw a couple of bullpens in it before the games actually start, and I figured by the games, that absolutely they'd have one -- and there hasn't been one made available to us," Cobb said.
Major League Baseball on Thursday issued the following statement regarding the protective caps:
"Clubs were informed in late January, after MLB and the MLBPA approved the use of the new product on a voluntary basis, that demonstrations of the protective hat are available, and that continues to be the case.
"Any pitcher who is interested in trying a model of the approved protective cap should contact their equipment manager so that the company can provide a custom-fitted model in his size. We will schedule any interested player with a fitting.
"The company has received direct, constructive feedback from players who have seen the hat. The company is attempting to make modifications that address the players' suggestions, which included the comfort, 'breathability' and look of the cap."
Though it was not clear if he was aware of MLB's statement, Cobb acknowledged Thursday that the players could be partially responsible for not yet having a protective hat to test.
"I guess you can kind of say it's our fault for not pushing it," Cobb said. "But I did think it would be available without us having to ask."
As for Chapman, Cobb said he would reach out to speak to him, just not yet.
"We play in Cincinnati this year," Cobb said. "Maybe I'll see if he's available to talk then."
Speaking from experience, Cobb said all of Chapman's friends would be talking to him in the coming days, so now was not the time.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.