GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman underwent a 2½-hour operation Thursday to repair a broken bone above his left eye but has no other serious injuries after being hit in the face by a line drive in a spring training game.
Team medical director Dr. Timothy Kremchek said Chapman could begin throwing off a mound in six to eight weeks, a timetable that could get him back in games in late May. The left-hander with a fastball that has reached 105 mph could start exercising and throwing on flat ground in a couple of weeks, Kremchek said.
The doctor called Chapman "a very lucky guy."
The surgery was performed by cranial facial plastic surgeon Dr. Ed Joganic.
Kremchek said earlier that a metal plate would be inserted in the bone above Chapman's left eyebrows and would remain there permanently. Chapman has a very mild concussion but no other brain injury and no injury to his eye, Kremchek said.
"He's feeling better and he has some pain management. We're optimistic that he is going to be on the mend," Reds manager Bryan Price said after meeting with players Thursday morning at the team's spring training facility. "Obviously, we'll stay in touch. We will make sure we follow the process as we continue to get familiar with the injury itself. We will let him know how much support he has and that we care about him. Hopefully, we will see him here very soon."
Cincinnati catcher Brayan Pena, a fellow Cuban and Chapman's close friend, was one of several Reds players who visited the injured pitcher Wednesday night and spoke to him on the phone Thursday morning.
"He was talking to me and we joked a lot," Pena said. "He just wanted to make sure for me to tell everybody that he appreciate so much the fans' prayers, especially our teammates, our coaching staff, everybody around, how much support and how much love he received and got from all of us."
Pena said Chapman was very happy when they spoke Thursday, "talking and joking. He was talking a lot about some Cuban jokes and that's good because that means his memory is still working pretty good."
The frightening incident, widely available on video via the Internet, occurred in the sixth inning of Wednesday night's game at Kansas City's spring training facility in Surprise, where the Royals' Salvador Perez lined Chapman's 99 mph fastball into the pitcher's face. Chapman was knocked backward to the ground, then rolled on his face, kicking in pain.
Pena rushed to the mound.
"Honestly, when I saw it I wanted to cry," Pena said. "That was my first feeling because it was very scary. It was very scary because I saw the line drive going straight for his face, and then I saw him bleeding and kicking and moving around the way he was."
Pena said Chapman "wasn't even talking. He was just like moaning and making sounds and then when I got there I panicked because I didn't know what else to do. Then the medical staff guys got there, and those guys were great."
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