Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals appeared to weep Wednesday night after smoking a line drive that hit left-hander Aroldis Chapman in the face and knocked him to the ground. It's always hard to reconcile, a 6-foot-3, 245 pound bulldozer of a man being reduced to an emotional wreck. But that's where Perez was.
After visiting Chapman at a hospital after the game against the Cincinnati Reds was called off, Perez felt better because Chapman was feeling better. Still, the star closer for the Reds sustained facial fractures that required surgery, and he'll miss perhaps 6-8 weeks. The upcoming games in Australia aside, the regular season starts in just over one week.
Reporter Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star and others caught up to Perez on Thursday, and the heavy emotions from the night before were lingering.
"I feel sad," Perez said, "that he won’t be there on opening day."
Perez got a hug from Royals general manager Dayton Moore, who told him he had a good heart.
Perez is, perhaps, the Royals most important player. He caught 117 complete games in 2013, logging 1,115 innings behind the plate. Only Matt Wieters caught more in the entire league. Perez is a tough dude. But he's only human. Chapman's physical wounds will heal and, chances are, both players will get past what happened emotionally. But it's not going to happen in a snap.
McCullough writes that Royals slugger Eric Hosmer, whose line drive hit right-hander Alex Cobb of the Rays in the head in 2013, says the feeling of responsibility is a burden.
"It’s a hopeless feeling, because you realize you caused it," Hosmer said. "But obviously you didn’t mean to do it. It’s a freak accident.
Perez appeared to still be grappling with those emotions on Thursday. The visit to Chapman did hearten him. He went with Reds catcher Brayan Pena and Royals reliever Francisley Bueno.
"He was very happy talking to me," Pena told reporters. "He was talking a lot about Cuban jokes. That means his memory is still working pretty good."
Memories of what happened to Chapman in the Cactus League might not be as helpful, to him or Perez. The best thing for both will be Chapman getting healthy and pitching again.
It's likely to happen, and let's assume it will. Just not soon enough.
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