May 12 2014, 4:53am CDT | by Poch de la Rosa
Chapman struck out the side in the ninth inning with his pitches reaching 100 mph as he is back to his old, deadly form after getting struck by a line drive in the face during a preseason game against the Kansas City Royals, per MLB.com's Andy Call:
"Chapman returned to the Reds for the first time since his horrifying Spring Training mishap, and his ensuing performance was as memorable as his entrance. Chapman fired fastballs of over 100 mph, struck out three consecutive batters after a leadoff walk and preserved Cincinnati's 4-1 win over Colorado.
"'My favorite pitch was the third strike to the last guy,' Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart said. 'My second-favorite was the first strike he threw. I thought about how far he had come back. It was something really cool to be a part of.'
"Chapman's first pitch was a 100-mph fastball that Troy Tulowitzki watched for a called strike. Tulowitzki went on to draw a walk, but Chapman fanned Carlos Gonzalez on three pitches, then struck out Nolan Arenado and Justin Morneau swinging to end the game.
"His fastball velocity ranged from 99-102 mph, and Chapman kept the hitters off balance by mixing in a few sliders as well."
The Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosencrans recalls the fateful Spring Training game on March 19 against the Kansas City Royals when Salvador Perez's line drive in the bottom of the sixth inning hit Chapman flush in the face, causing him to fall on to the mound, writhing in pain. Rosencrans notes Reds catcher Brayan Pena was there to support Chapman during the peak of the ordeal.
"Pena didn't play in Sunday's game, but he was behind the plate on March 19 in Surprise, Ariz., when Salvador Perez's line drive hit Chapman just above his left eye. Pena was there at the hospital that night and again after Chapman had surgery to place a titanium plate above his eye and nose.
"And he was there on Sunday when Reds manager Bryan Price made the call to the bullpen for Chapman to come out and try to finish off the Rockies.
"'I'm so excited to see him out there,' Pena said. 'We took a picture together today, because we took a picture together in the hospital after he got hurt. Today he was all sweaty and we took a picture with Roger (Bernadina) and (Ramon) Santiago -- it was very, very emotional."
Chapman then tells Rosencrans about his emotions upon taking the mound again through Cincinnati's assistant athletic trainer Tomas Vera, who served as Chapman's interpreter.
"The majority of athletes know how to control themselves -- I was happy, of couse I was happy. But I was able to control myself and be able to work without distraction.
"It didn't bother me too much because I walked the guy (Tulowitzki), walking a person is part of the game and walking is like when you give up a hit or a home run, when someone does something, that's part of the game.
"You can't get (mad), yes, I walked him and he's the first batter I faced and the first batter of the inning, but he walks and he's on and I forget about him and I have to get to the next guy."
ESPN Stats & Information offered a more perspective on Chapman's value:
"Chapman hit at least 100 mph on the radar gun 15 times on 21 pitches.
"Sunday marked the fifth time over the last four seasons that Chapman has thrown 15 or more pitches clocked at 100 mph or faster.
"Opponents have missed on 42 percent of their swings against pitches clocked that fast by Chapman in his career (counting both the regular season and the postseason).
"The average major-league pitch thrown less than 100 mph is missed about 23 percent of the time.
"Chapman has recorded 196 outs and yielded only 22 hits and 15 walks against his 100-mph pitches.
"Chapman's return should play a significant role in returning some sense of normalcy to the Reds' bullpen.
"In his absence, Reds relievers were 3-8 with a 4.80 ERA to start the season.
"They ranked 29th in ERA and 29th in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
"Chapman entered the season with a 2.40 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk rate of better than 3 to 1."
Poch de la Rosa
Poch de la Rosa follows all major U.S. sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. His favorite teams are the Colts, Braves, Pacers, Sharks and Irish, respectively.
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