When Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman was drilled above the eye by a line drive in Spring Training, there was more than a moment where anyone watching had to wonder if the impact would render him blind in his eye or perhaps even worse.
But Chapman came back quickly and fearlessly to regain the dominant form that is his, and his alone.
Chapman had such an amazing recovery that he set a major-league record for most appearances in a row by a reliever with a least one strikeout (49), which shattered the previous mark of 39 established by Bruce Sutter.
Chapman’s streak actually started last year. It ended Aug. 13, the game before Chapman experienced a meltdown on the mound by walking four-consecutive hitters and ultimately blowing a save that also will be regarded as the mark for the Reds’ blown 2014 season.
Chapman’s year in 2014 was a personally remarkable one, both for his recovery and record. But as far as his team is considered, the 2014 season will be the most disappointing one for the franchise and its fanbase in recent memory.
The Reds came out of the gate hurt — no Chapman, Johnathan Broxton, Mat Latos or Devin Mesoraco. Then things started to look a little more promising with the return of Chapman and the rest before the bottom started to fall out again with the loss of Tony Cingrani, Joey Votto and then finally Brandon Phillips.
All but Votto and Cingrani have returned. Chapman has taken a seat to briefly nurse a sore shoulder, but the Reds have to start questioning whether it makes any sense to pitch him again this season if they have any legitimate concern whatsoever that Chapman may be truly injured.
After all, losing Chapman twice this year is bad enough. Risking the loss of their closer for 2015 would be unforgivable if the Reds have no chance of making the postseason this year.