ARLINGTON, Texas – J.A. Happ understands better than most the risks pitchers live with on the mound having taken a line drive off the head in 2013 that fractured his skull behind the left ear and left him with a right knee sprain.
That’s why he was particularly sympathetic toward Toronto Blue Jays teammate Francisco Liriano, who was struck by a 102-mph line drive off Carlos Gomez’s bat in Friday’s 5-3 win over the Texas Rangers.
"That was scary and I don’t know exactly what was going on, but obviously we’re thinking about him a lot," said Happ. "I know what he’s going through right now, hoping for the best for the results, but yeah, that was scary."
Good news came after the game as Liriano was examined in a local hospital and cleared to fly back to Toronto with the team. Shortly after the final out, he was loaded onto an ambulance on a stretcher conscious but with his neck immobilized.
Such testing is part of mandated protocol for head injuries, as there have been no shortage of similarly concerning incidents in recent seasons.
Working in Liriano’s favour was that Gomez’s drive didn’t catch him flush, more glancing off his head en route to the outfield. The more dangerous incidents are when the ball deadens on contact, meaning the pitcher has absorbed most of the momentum upon impact.
It appears Liriano had some very good fortune.
"That could happen to any one of us," said closer Roberto Osuna. "It was Liriano this time, and I feel bad for him, but I know he’s going to be fine."