Nats pitchers realize Chapman’s fate could easily be theirs

VIERA, Fla. - The replay of Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman getting hit in the face with a line drive was shown on the Nationals’ clubhouse TVs several times Thursday. Each time, players reacted in stunned silence.

Some looked away. Others closed their eyes. But each realized the accident could happen in any game.

Chapman, the Reds’ closer, was hit in the face with a drive by Kansas City’s Salvador Perez in the Cactus League on Wednesday night. Chapman was carried off on a stretcher. The game was called.

Chapman was lucky. His eye is OK and he’ll be out up to eight weeks after surgery repairs a bone above his left eye, according to media reports. He never lost consciousness.

“I watched, and there’s nothing you can do,” Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann says. “You try to react, but when a ball is hit that hard, a pitcher has no chance.”

As a college pitcher, Zimmermann suffered a broken jaw when hit by a line drive. He said that if a pitcher thinks about getting hit, “You’ll never pitch the way you’re capable of pitching.”

Reliever Craig Stammen hasn’t seen the Chapman replay and doesn’t want to see it.

“I don’t think it is something I’ll look up on my phone,” Stammen says. “It’s similar to a football quarterback. If you worry about getting hit, you can’t do your job.”

As of this season, Major League Baseball allows pitchers to wear a lightweight protective liner inside a cap, but not many pitchers are using it. That protection wouldn’t have done Chapman much good because he took a direct shot to his eye.

“We haven’t really found a good solution yet,” Stammen says. “Are we all going to be wearing facemasks out there?”

After watching Chapman fall to the ground, Gio Gonzalez was stunned: “That’s one of the scariest things I have ever seen. It’s scary because there’s absolutely nothing a pitcher can do about it. A hit like that happens in a split second.”