Aroldis Chapman came back in style Sunday, striking out the side in the ninth inning of his 2014 debut against the Colorado Rockies. Chapman was making his fist appearance of the season after being hit in the face by a line drive on March 19 during spring training.
The left-handed flame thrower was pitching against major league hitters for the first time since the injuries that led to fractures near his nose and left eye. The performance by the Reds closer was both impressive and heartwarming as he was consistently timed at over 100 mph on the radar gun. He struck out three straight Rockies after a lead off walk in the Reds’ 4-1 win over the Rockies.
“I had a lot of emotion going,” Chapman said through a translator.
It was Chapman’s first save of the year as Cincinnati moved to 17-19 on the season and prepares to host the San Diego Padres beginning Tuesday at Great American Ballpark.
Reds manager Brian Price said he would use Chapman in both the eighth and ninth innings for the time being as he gets acclimated to playing major league baseball again.
Chapman’s appearance gave an obvious lift to the Reds, who have floundered most of the season while being hit with more injuries than any team in baseball. Chapman was the first to go down among his Reds teammates and the team is still waiting for Devin Mesoraco, Mat Latos and Jay Bruce to return.
Chapman’s return settles the Reds bullpen or will begin to as he returns to form. With the closer back in his usual position it will allow Price to slot the rest of his relievers in a better position. The Reds bullpen was one of the better ones in baseball last season, and Price hopes Chapman’s return makes it a strength again.
Return of Walking Wounded – The Reds are hopeful that Mesoraco will be able to join the team and come off the disabled list this Friday after suffering a strained left hamstring. The young catcher is hitting .468 this season with two different trips to the disabled list. Mesoraco is slated to start a rehab assignment this week before joining the team in Philadelphia Friday. In other good news, Latos, the Reds No. 2 starter from last season, is continuing a throwing program and making strides toward a return to the mound. Latos has yet to pitch in 2014 and has been out since spring training.
Cueto Continues Dominance – Johnny Cueto is the best pitcher in baseball at the moment. His dominance continued Friday night against the Colorado Rockies, baseball’s best hitting team at the moment. The Reds right-hander pitched eight innings, giving up just two runs on five hits. Cueto has now gone at least seven innings in all eight of his starts, compiling 63 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .138 batting average. His ERA leads the league at 1.43 as does his WHIP at 0.73.
Impressive stuff from Cueto as now he and the Reds have their anchor in the back of the bullpen as Chapman returned in style Sunday afternoon against the Rockies. For a Cincinnati Reds team trying to find their way through this injury plagued season perhaps they can find some hope again.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the St. Louis Cardinals