Carrasco Comebacker Contusion A Dodged Bullet for Pitcher
Laurel Wilder | On 18, Apr 2015
It’s one of the most horrifying things to watch in baseball: a pitcher delivers to the batter, the batter connects, and then – BAM. The pitcher is down. It happens so quickly, there is little time to process what happened. Then the replays start and you can’t help but cringe. The pitcher is down, hit in the face by a screaming line drive. It’s a fate wished on no one.
When Carlos Carrasco went down on Tuesday night in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox after throwing only eight pitches, the stadium went silent. Fans from both sides waited to see the verdict.
Carrasco is reported to have suffered little more than a jaw contusion and is on the schedule to pitch Monday against the White Sox in Chicago. However, the result of his injury could have been career-ending. Here’s a look at some pitchers who have suffered the same fate, with mixed results (strangely, the Indians seem to be involved in quite a few of these occurrences). While an injury such as this seems to merely be a bump in the road for some players, as some of these stories demonstrate, the results are not always so positive, and a hit to face can often have much, much worse ramifications than missing a start or two.
Herb Score: In the 1950s, Herb Score was said to be in line to become the next ace of the Cleveland Indians’ roster, on track to be the next big name after Bob Feller. However, in 1957, Score was hit in the face by a comebacker hit by Yankees infielder Gil McDougald. Score was left with a broken nose, vision problems, and a derailed career. He retired with the White Sox in 1962. As Cleveland fans are well-aware, though, Score did not leave the game of baseball entirely, as he was picked up as a television and radio play-by-play announcer for the Indians in 1964. His last game as a radio announcer for the Tribe was Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. Although he managed a noteworthy career in Cleveland, one can only wonder how his pitching would have progressed had he never gone down on May 7, 1957.
Mike Mussina: While with the Baltimore Orioles in 1998, Mike Mussina suffered from a hit to the face from Sandy Alomar, Jr. that took him out of the game for nearly a month. The hit left a gash above Mussina’s right eye. He closed out his career with a 270-153 record and .638 win percentage, but admitted in the July 8, 2001 edition of ESPN’s Outside the Line – Comebackers that feeling 100 percent comfortable on the mound after his injury was not easy feat.
“It was mentally getting over the fear that every ball I threw, every ball that someone made contact with was not coming back at me,” Mussina said during the episode.
Willie Blair: Willie Blair was a pitcher with the Detroit Tigers when he was struck in the face by a comebacker from Julio Franco on May 4, 1997, when the Tigers faced the Indians. Franco’s hit broke Blair’s jaw and the pitcher was slated to be out six to eight weeks. However, he came back to the game as early as June 3, and proceeded to have 16-8 record for the season.
Matt Clement: After being named to his first All-Star team in 2005, Matt Clement suffered a career-derailing blow when a hit by Carl Crawford struck him in the head on July 26. Clement was carried off the field on a stretcher and, despite making his next start, struggled throughout the rest of his career. He posted a 6.61 ERA in 2006, and was done after that season.
Bryce Florie: The Red Sox reliever was nailed in the face on September 8, 2000, by Ryan Thompson, and suffered broken bones and eye damage after the hit. He tried to return to pitching the following season but had an 11.42 ERA in seven games, with his last Major League game being played on July 21, 2001.
Steve Shields: Reliever Steve Shields suffered two knocks in the head from pitches, once in A ball and again in the big leagues. He suffered a seizure and memory loss from the first hit, and ended up with a broken cheekbone when facing Kirby Puckett while pitching for the Seattle Mariners.
Juan Nicasio: On August 5, 2011, during his first season in the Majors, Rockies’ starter Juan Nicasio suffered a broken neck after a hit from Ian Desmond struck him on the mound. He was out for the rest of 2011 but returned to the mound in 2012 and pitched in 11 games. Nicasio is still pitching into this season, now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and has been pitching from the pen this year.
Billy Wagner: Closer Billy Wagner was hit behind the ear by a line drive on July 15, 1998, and suffered a concussion that took him out of the game for the next few weeks. He did not lose consciousness after his injury and spent his time on the DL working on things such as balance to improve his performance upon his return. Wagner ended up becoming a very dominant closer, ending his career in 2010 with an overall 47-40 record and 2.31 ERA in 853 games.
Aroldis Chapman: While it’s bad enough to be struck in the face by any pitch flying off a bat, imagine being struck by a hit resulting from a pitch thrown over 100 mph. Aroldis Chapman, an All-Star closer with the Reds who is known for clocking the fastest MLB pitch at 106 mph, was struck during Spring Training last season on March 19, 2014. A titanium plate had to be inserted above his left eye to stabilize the facial fractures he suffered as a result of the injury. A mere six weeks after the accident, Chapman was back on the field, rehabbing with the Dayton Dragons and topping out at 101 mph. He returned to the Reds in May of 2014 and, despite going 0-3 on the season, posted a 2.00 ERA in 54 games. He was named to the 2014 National League All-Star team.
Photo: Mark Duncan/AP Photo