Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman returns to the hill

Chapman is already smoking.

Following a leadoff walk, Reds flamethrower Aroldis Chapman fanned the side to preserve Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

Chapman (4-5, 2.54 ERA) suffered a skull fracture above his left eye after getting struck by a line drive during a spring training game in March.

A two-time All-Star, Chapman underwent the knife to fix the wound and had a metal plate permanently inserted into his head.

“I am really happy to get out there for the first time,” said Chapman, 26, who avoided arbitration in January by penning a one-year deal worth $5 million. “They are a good team but I was mentally prepared to face them. Facing those types of hitters make you feel better, than if you just break the ice.”

Cincinnati (17-19) has been a middling squad in the National League Central and the importance of Chapman’s return can’t be overstated.

New Reds manager Bryan Price, who was formally named the organization’s skipper three days after last season’s Wild Card loss to Pittsburgh, initially wouldn’t commit to keeping Chapman in the bullpen.

However, Price and general manager Walt Jocketty ultimately agreed that the “Cuban Missile” is a reliever.

Chapman, who once gunned the fastest recorded pitch in MLB history at 105.1 mph, converted 38 saves in 43 opportunities during the 2013 campaign.

One of the sport’s most intimidating men on the hill, the blazing southpaw gives Cincinnati an indispensable weapon that few squads have.

Tall, lanky and athletic, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Chapman only employs a heater and slider.

With a dearth of pitches, Dusty Baker perfectly used the “Cuban Missile” and Chapman obviously relishes his current job.

Despite enduring such a nightmare on the mound, Chapman is somehow already “mentally prepared” to thrive.

As a healthy stopper in “The Queen City,” Chapman can help the Reds capture their sixth World Series title.

Cincinnati Reds fans should “feel better” about their team with Aroldis Chapman on the roster.

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