(Reuters) - Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair facial fractures one day after getting struck in the face by a line drive in a spring training game.
Chapman will be out six-to-eight weeks and is "absolutely" expected to play during the 2014 Major League Baseball season, according to Reds medical director Dr. Timothy Kremchek.
Chapman, who will have a metal plate placed on the bone above his eye to stabilize the injury, could be released from the hospital as soon as Saturday but will have to wait until May before returning to competition, Kremchek said.
"Right now, he's awake, he's alert and knows what's going on," Kremchek told reporters. "The idea is to get (the facial fractures) fixed, and hopefully within a couple of weeks he can start exercises and start throwing, and hopefully be back in six to eight weeks."
Chapman was carried off on a stretcher Wednesday night after being struck by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez during their spring training game in Surprise, Arizona.
He was taken to a local hospital where they found he had suffered facial fractures and was transferred to another facility for further testing and was kept there overnight.
"He has a very mild concussion, no other brain injury," said Kremchek. "His eyes are fine. Right now, he's a very lucky guy."
Less than a day after the scary incident, the Reds were feeling a sense of relief that Chapman appeared to be on the mend.
"We're just hoping that he's feeling better," said manager Bryan Price. "We'll spend as much time as we can letting him know how much support he has and how much we care about him. Hopefully we'll see him here pretty soon.
"We were all really frightened by what we saw and concerned about the long-term health."
Brayan Pena, who visited the Cuban-born Chapman at the hospital on Thursday, was behind the plate when the pitcher was injured.
"Honestly, when I saw it, I wanted to cry," said Pena. "That was my first feeling, because it was very scary."
Pena said Chapman was in good spirits during his visit.
"He was very excited, very happy talking to me and joking to me. He was talking a lot about Cuban jokes," Pena said. "That's good. That means his memory is still working pretty good."
Chapman, 26, is entering his fifth major league season.
The hard-throwing left-hander, who can exceed 100 mph with his fastball, was an All-Star in 2012 and 2013, recording 38 saves each year.
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue