Karma catches Chapman after McCutchen HBP

This is when spring training turns tedious for most veteran players. That wasn’t the case for Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman, though.

He wound up in the hospital after taking a line drive off his face while pitching in an exhibition game.

Chapman needed surgery to repair a broken bone above his left eye and doctors say he will need to have a metal plate inserted in his skull. He’s expected to miss six to eight weeks.

The hard-throwing Chapman has been the Reds’ closer for several seasons. Pirates fans probably remember him best for the Aug. 3, 2012 game in Cincinnati when he drilled Andrew McCutchen with a 101-mile per hour fastball in the ninth inning.

McCutchen took the pitch off his arm, but that was only because he was able to twist and get his chin out of the way. In the aftermath, the Reds claimed Chapman was just pitching inside and had no intent to harm McCutchen.

Not everyone believed that. The Reds and Pirates were battling for position in the standings, McCutchen was clearly the Pirates best player, and the Reds were leading in the game, which meant they wouldn’t bat again and face possible retaliation.

There was no immediate revenge extracted, but the Pirates and Reds have been hitting each other with pitches regularly since then. Reds’ second baseman Brandon Phillips went into a steep decline last season after he was hit on the wrist by the Pirates’ Tony Watson on June 1.

Intimidation has been a convenient one-way street for Chapman. Because he’s a one-inning specialist, he hardly ever has to bat. He made his first career plate appearance last season, the only time he’s stepped into the batters box in 205 games.

Baseball is full of codes and unwritten rules. One of them is that pitchers are entitled to brush back hitters, or even hit them, but only below the shoulders. Even though batters wear helmets, there’s still the potential for serious injury.

The Pirates’ Gary Redus was hit in the face by a Tim Crews fastball in 1989. Two days later, the imprint made by the stitches of the baseball was still visible on his swollen cheek.

Karma, being an ethereal force, may have shown itself in the line drive that crushed Chapman’s face. While the physical damage was being repaired, Chapman didn’t seem to have any psychological hangover.

He used social media to post a graphic photo of the surgical staples in his head. He’ll be back, and he’ll probably throw as hard as ever has.

But having experienced the damage that a baseball can cause, maybe he’ll be more careful about throwing 101-mile per hour fastballs near anyone’s head.

Hey, Sunday readers

Just a reminder that the annual Guess How Many Games The Pirates Will Win Contest is open at the “Mainly Mehno” blog at

You submit two numbers: How many games you think the Pirates will win in 2014, and how many home runs you think they’ll hit (that’s the tiebreaker).

Email them to me, and you’ll have a chance to win the prize, a box of leftover Pirates promotional stuff.

Full details are over at the blog, but this is a condensed version for busy people.

For reference, the Pirates won 94 games last season and hit 161 home runs in the 162-game season.

Take your chance. Doesn’t cost anything to enter.

Mehno can be reached at