(AP) Happ latest pitcher hit in head by line drive
By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.
J.A. Happ raised his glove in front of his face as quickly as he could, a futile attempt to shield himself from the line drive headed straight for his temple.
It was too late. Thwack!
The sickening sound of a sharply hit baseball striking the Toronto pitcher’s skull could be heard all the way up in the press box.
And then, sheer silence.
Happ’s frightening injury Tuesday night at Tropicana Field left players on both teams shaken and revived questions about whether Major League Baseball is doing enough to protect pitchers who often find themselves in harm’s way on the mound. He has been listed as being in stable condition.
Happ was hit squarely on the left side of his head by Desmond Jennings’ second-inning liner during Toronto’s 6-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. The left-hander was immobilized on a backboard, lifted onto a stretcher and wheeled off the field. He was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where the Blue Jays said he was alert and undergoing tests.
Nursing supervisor Natasha Keller told The Associated Press that Happ had been admitted to the hospital and was in stable condition.
It was the latest injury to a pitcher struck by a batted ball in the last few years, and baseball has discussed ways to protect hurlers who ply their craft against the world’s strongest hitters _ only 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate.
General managers discussed the issue during their meetings in November and MLB presented several ideas at the winter meetings weeks later.
MLB staff have said a cap liner with Kevlar, the material used in body armor for the military, law enforcement and NFL players, is among the ideas under consideration.
The liners, weighing perhaps 5 ounces or less, would go under a pitcher’s cap and help protect against line drives that often travel over 100 mph.
Several pitchers around the majors sounded resistant _ even after seeing replays of Happ’s injury.
MLB could implement the safety change in the minor leagues, as it did a few seasons ago with augmented batting helmets, but would require the approval of the players’ union to make big leaguers wear them.
Colorado Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa said if a helmet or liner is developed for pitchers, he’d gladly wear one.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Homer Bailey doesn’t like the idea of wearing protective headgear.
And Seattle Mariners right-hander Aaron Harang thinks it would be difficult for veteran major league pitchers to adapt to new equipment.
Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington wondered if there’s a viable solution.
Oakland right-hander Brandon McCarthy was hit in the head by a line drive last September, causing a skull fracture, an epidural hemorrhage and a brain contusion that required surgery. He was released from the hospital six days later.
McCarthy, who pitched for Arizona on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers, said he won’t watch video of Happ getting hit.
Still, McCarthy maintains hope.
Jennings’ liner caromed off Happ’s head and halfway up the right-field line in foul territory as Jennings raced around the bases for a two-run triple. The 30-year-old Happ dropped face down at the front of the mound, holding his head with his glove and bare hand.
Team trainers, paramedics and medical officials rushed to Happ’s aid as a stunned crowd of 10,273 at Tropicana Field fell into a horrified hush. A shaken Jennings stood with his hands on his head, and other players were visibly concerned as they watched Happ receive medical attention for about eight minutes.
The pitcher was wheeled off the field to a waiting ambulance. Just before he disappeared under the stands, Happ raised his right hand and waved. He received a standing ovation from the crowd, and the game resumed after an 11-minute delay.
Breitbart Sports contributed to this report.