Phillies' pitchers share reaction to Chapman's injury
Hamels believes comebackers are an unavoidable risk of being on the mound
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- When the flat screens in the Phillies' Spring Training clubhouse showed Reds closer Aroldis Chapman crumple to the ground after a line drive struck his face, the room went silent.
Some turned away. Others simply stared at the screen as the video played in a loop.
In the replay, coming from a game in Surprise, Ariz., Chapman throws a 99-mph fastball to Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who hits a line drive directly back at him. The Cuban left-hander has no time to react before the ball ricochets off his face and across the third-base line.
Seated in front of his locker, Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels spun in his chair to face away from the TV.
For him, comebackers cannot be avoided.
"Ultimately, I think we all get hit," he said. "I think that's kind of the nature of the game.
"It's a situation that we are all very aware of. It's not like we need a forewarning. If you pitch in a game, balls will be hit back at you."
The incident elicited a different reaction from right-hander Mike Adams, who said the possibility of getting hit never crosses his mind.
"I mean, you don't ever think about that, at least I don't," Adams said. "It's very rare. You hope that it never happens, but once I'm on the mound, I never think about the ball coming back and hitting me like that."
The variety of responses in the Phillies' clubhouse represents the range of opinions in MLB on how to protect its pitchers. In January, Major League Baseball approved the use of a cap with additional padding to soften the blow of line drives, but its use remains optional.
Hamels expressed concern about its effectiveness.
"I don't think it's going to work as much as they think," he said. "The head is such a small area opposed to your whole body. I mean, you can likely just get hit in your heart, your face, your shoulder, a kneecap just as much as your head."
The padded caps have not come to Phillies camp yet.
Hamels, who said he gets hit once a year, added that the best way to prevent injuries such as Chapman's is to educate young pitchers.
"That's just kind of something that when you're young, just try to teach kids to be a little more in control with their windups and obviously be in a more ready position, just to give themselves a fair chance," he said.
After a 2013 season in which the Blue Jays' J.A. Happ and the Rays' Alex Cobb missed significant time after taking line drives to the head, the comebacker remains prevalent. At least three pitchers have been struck by a batted ball this spring. Jose Quintana of the White Sox and Miguel Gonzalez of the Orioles were hit before Chapman's injury.
As for the Reds star, his status remains uncertain. Tests at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix found facial fractures above Chapman's left eye and nose. He will undergo a procedure to insert a metal plate above his left eye.
Hamels said much is left to chance regardless of the precautions. "You're just kind of messing with luck, and sometimes faith, and you just have to go with it and hope it doesn't hit a critical part of your body that causes you to never pitch again," he said. "Or not function as a human being."
Alden Woods is a journalism student at Indiana University. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.