PITTSBURGH -- He was pitching from behind a screen and facing hitters wearing the same Reds uniform, but Wednesday remained a significant benchmark for closer Aroldis Chapman.
For the first time since he was struck in the head by a line drive last month and suffered fractures above the left eye and nose, Chapman faced hitters. He threw 27 pitches of live batting practice. The hitters were Brayan Pena and Neftali Soto and third-base coach Steve Smith also stepped in for an at-bat.
"I felt very good. I didn't feel anything out of the ordinary," Chapman said with Pena interpreting.
The Reds were quite pleased with Chapman's performance.
"He threw all of his pitches. He was very sharp," manager Bryan Price said. "Good velocity. Good slider. He threw his changeup. He looked like midseason form."
"Especially with a hitter like me, you've got to be careful," Pena joked. "He did great. Everybody was very excited and happy to see him go back out there. His confidence was very good. It was a great sign."
It was Chapman's choice to pitch behind a protective screen, which the club felt was a good idea.
"It's a little bit of a different animal when you're facing your guys," Price said. "Typically, most of your pitches are going to be away from the hitter. You don't want to hit your own guys throwing live batting practice. The balls that typically get smoked up the middle are the ones that are out and over the plate. I would have been a little concerned to have him go out there the first time without some protection."
Said Chapman about using a screen: "It was a little bit uncomfortable but it didn't make any difference to me because I was able to execute all of my pitches."
The next step for the 26-year-old Chapman is another live BP session, sans the screen, this weekend in Atlanta. After that, he would likely head out on a Minor League rehab assignment.
"On the front ends of this, we certainly want to make sure he gets a chance to face hitters and do what would be fairly standard protocol if we were in Spring Training," Price said. "That being said, we're not at the front end of a Spring Training template. He's not a month away from activation."
Progress has been remarkably rapid since Chapman was injured on March 19 vs. the Royals. He began light throwing within a couple of weeks and returned to a bullpen mound April 14.
Chapman, a two-time All-Star who has saved 38 games in each of the past two seasons, has been happy about bouncing back so quick.
"I'm just trying to continue to improve because I know it's not going to be easy," he said. "It takes time. Now I believe I'm going to go and rehab in the Minor Leagues. It's a long process. Throwing-wise, I feel great. I feel like nothing happened. I'm very pleased with my performance today."
Schumaker set for action at spring complex
PITTSBURGH -- Reds infielder/outfielder Skip Schumaker is scheduled to travel to Goodyear, Ariz., on Thursday to begin playing in extended spring games at the team's complex. Schumaker dislocated his left shoulder during a March 21 exhibition game.
"He can take all the ground balls and fly balls he wants. He can hit leadoff every inning," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Wednesday. "We're going to try and be as accommodating as we can to get him as many at-bats, seeing as many pitches as possible on the front end of this thing. Once he goes to a full-season league, we can't control the environment."
Schumaker, who has been taking batting practice on the road trip, will begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville after he has advanced through Goodyear.
"It would initially be five or six innings and then move incrementally to get his stamina up," Price said.
Frazier's bat heating up after rough stretch
PITTSBURGH -- Since going through the mini-funk of an 0-for-13 streak, third baseman Todd Frazier has heated up nicely for the Reds. Over the three previous games entering Wednesday, Frazier was 6-for-11 with two doubles, two RBIs and two walks.
"It's great to see," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "They're all valuable pieces, but Todd is sitting more towards the middle of the lineup in that four or five spot. It's not even the power. What we're looking for is good consistent at-bats from our lineup. It doesn't have to be home runs. It doesn't have to be ringing doubles in the gap. It's just got to be good, efficient and effective at-bats. It's very encouraging to see the way he's been swinging the bat the last couple of games."
Frazier has started all 21 of the Reds' games at third base this season.
"I just think he has a chance to be a really dynamic player," Price said. "I think he's already a very good player but I think he could be a dynamic impact player."