It was chilly at Fifth Third Field Thursday night, but fans could feel and see some heat in the first inning. Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, here on an injury rehab assignment, was the Dragons starting pitcher and he made quick work of the first three hitters in the Lansing Lugnuts lineup.
The left-hander retired the first two hitters on called third strikes. The final out of the inning was the only ball the Lugnuts put in play. Third baseman Mitch Nay hit a sharp fly to left that was run down just shy of the warning track.
Chapman threw 18 pitches in his inning,11 for strikes. He hit triple-digits on the radar gun four times, topping out at 101 miles per hour.
Chapman watched the game from the dugout for a couple of innings before talking about his outing through interpreter Tomas Vera. “It was cold out there tonight, but I feel really normal today,” Chapman said. “The fastball was really good. I only threw one slider and it wasn’t good. I threw a lot of change-ups and I liked the location. They were all landing where I wanted them.”
Chapman hasn’t pitched in a game since he was hit in the face with a line drive in a spring training game March 19. He had surgery the next day to replace a broken bone above his left eye. He has thrown “live” batting practice to teammates three times in the last several days.
He told reporters afterward the only time he thinks about being hit with the line drive is when it comes up in interviews. “I have a lot of confidence in me and I have no fear and no hesitation out there,” Chapman said. “I feel really normal and positive.”
Chapman is expected to make a few more rehab appearances before he re-joins the Reds. “I need two or three more outings,” he said. “I feel like three more would be good for me to join the team.” None of those future sessions will be in Dayton since the Dragons start a six-game road trip at Lake County.
If all goes well the two-time All-Star could re-join the Reds when they come off a quick road trip to Boston next week. Cincinnati is scheduled to open a homestand against Colorado on May 9.