Biloxi Shuckers

It's all in the hips: Shuckers closer Chapman thrives after major surgeries

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD 
 Jaye Chapman has been almost unhittable as the Biloxi Shuckers closer.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Jaye Chapman has been almost unhittable as the Biloxi Shuckers closer.

Jaye Chapman has become one of the more durable relief pitchers in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, and he's done it despite going through double hip surgery in 2013.

The Biloxi Shuckers closer has been perfect on the mound in five appearances this season. Chapman, who has seven strikeouts and no walks, hasn't allowed a hit and has four saves with an ERA of 0.00.

After splitting time between Double-A Biloxi and Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2015, the 28-year-old Chapman appears a man set to take one step closer to getting back to the big leagues.

The native of Panama City, Fla., achieved his dream of becoming a major league player with the Chicago Cubs in 2012, putting together an ERA of 3.75 in 14 appearances.

However, Chapman's lingering hip pain suddenly became a major issue when he tried to make the Cubs for the 2013 season.

"My left hip was killing me," he said. "I could barely pitch, but I tried to tough it out. It was a chance to make a major league team."

'How was he even pitching?'

Chapman was sent to Triple-A Iowa to start the 2013 season and his condition only worsened. He made four appearances and had an ERA of 17.05.

"The pain was just so bad," Chapman said. "I finally told some guys with the Cubs that I can barely throw because my hips hurt so bad. They were shocked about it. Once they found out what was going on, it was 'Holy cow, how was he even pitching?' My labrums were frayed."

Chapman was diagnosed with femoroacetabular impengement, which is a genetic condition that involves bone growth at the head of his thigh bones, causing damage to surrounding tissue.

He had no cartilage tissue remaining in his hips.

At the age of 25, Chapman was facing hip surgery when his baseball career appeared set to reach its pinnacle.

"It was a pretty serious blow," he said. "I was losing a ton of mobility, range of motion. They gave me two options -- lose activity, which means to retire, or have surgeries and try to come back.

"I was 25 and had just made my major league debut. At the same time, I knew I was just a version of what I could be. I knew my hips were inhibiting me. When I was a young kid, I threw very hard. I knew something was going on."

Chapman chose to go through surgery that involved the removal of bone spurs and microfracture procedures on both hips.

He underwent surgery on his right hip, recovered to the point that he could take a full step, and then went back in for the same procedure on the right hip.

The microfracture surgeries, which were done by the Phoenix Coyotes' team doctor, Gary Waslewski, replaced the cartilage in his hips with a tissue that forms like a cartilage-type material thanks to marrow and blood seeping together.

Learning to throw again

Chapman relied on his personal faith and parents to help him battle through the recovery.

When he finally attempted to pitch again, he struggled with the basic mechanics of throwing a baseball.

"About every other throw, I fell down," Chapman said. "My back leg wasn't used to it. I tried to throw a little too hard. That was a little frustrating. Over time, I started being able to throw the ball with some consistency."

In 2014, Chapman played independent baseball with the Bridgeport (Conn.) Bluefish in the Atlantic League. He had a 3.86 ERA in 50 games.

Prior to the 2015 campaign, Chapman signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers and Biloxi was his first stop.

A little over a week before the Shuckers had their June 6 home opener last season, Chapman was promoted to Triple-A. He had an ERA of 2.37 with 17 saves in 59 total games last season.

He's progressed even more this year with a fastball in the low 90s and a changeup that frustrates batters.

"I feel way more powerful," Chapman said. "My mobility is better. I feel I'm better than I was with the Cubs."

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