The comeback is complete. Aroldis Chapman made his first appearance for the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday afternoon, striking out three and earning the save in a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies. Chapman's return was an emotional event for everyone involved, considering the seriousness of his injury. But it also will have a positive residual impact on the entire Reds bullpen moving forward.
Chapman, who was struck in the forehead with a line drive during a spring training game on March 19, was reinstated from the disabled list Saturday for the first time since suffering multiple facial fractures which required surgery to implant a metal plate to help stabilize the bone. He made four minor league rehab appearances before being activated.
Chapman provides a unique dynamic to the Reds bullpen with his explosive fastball. His return also means right-hander Jonathan Broxton, who recorded five saves as the Reds' temporary closer, will move back into a setup role. And the rest of the relievers will assume the responsibilities intended for them in spring training prior to Chapman's injury.
"We have depth now at each spot," Reds manager Bryan Price said.
Despite allowing eight earned runs in his final two rehab starts for Triple-A Louisville, the Cuban flamethrower displayed few ill-effects from a very serious injury. On Sunday, he received a thunderous ovation from the crowd and then proceeded to strike out Rockies sluggers Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, and Justin Morneau in succession.
"It's remarkable, and I'm sure he's tired of talking about it, but he's proven he's not affected by what happened," said Price. "He's ready to put it all behind him."
Chapman's return could prove to be the spark that's been lacking for Cincinnati.
"To see him sprinting out there was an adrenaline rush for everyone," said Reds 3B Todd Frazier.