On September 5, Oakland Athletics’ pitcher Brandon McCarthy was struck in the head by a batted ball. A week later, a line drive hit Astros’ relief pitcher Mickey Storey. Both men are recovering, but their plights caught the attention of ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, who wrote an article about pitchers getting hit with line drives. Kurkjian joined Bill Littlefield to discuss the impact of these injuries on players.
“It’s such a dangerous situation,” Kurkjian said. “It is a miracle to me that no one has literally been killed on the mound by a line drive.”
Pitchers like McCarthy and Storey who suffered serious injuries from batted balls have returned to the mound, but not always at full strength. Mike Wilson, a 21-year-old pitcher in the Tigers organization, was hit by a ball in 1994 and lost six teeth.
“He came back two months later and he couldn’t finish his curve ball,” Kurkjian said. “He lost 10 miles per hour off his fast ball. You can’t do that if you want to keep pitching in the major leagues.”
Pitchers who have returned to the game after head injuries try to avoid thinking about getting hit.
“They have the ability to block it out and to move on,” Kurkjian said.
Often, it is not the pitchers but their teammates who struggle to move on from these accidents.
“Wilson doesn’t have any nightmares anymore, but he’s been told by teammates who were at the game when he got hit that they have nightmares still,” Kurkjian said. “His catcher had to leave the field and literally throw up, that’s how bad it was.”
Kurkjian said the danger for pitchers will likely come up at the MLB general managers’ meetings this winter, but it is unlikely the league will institute protective measures.
“I’m just not sure that any general manager has an idea that hasn’t been thought about to this point,” he said. “If you do anything to get in the way of a pitchers vision of what he’s trying to do, that simply isn’t going to happen.”
For now, this is a danger pitchers will have to learn to accept.
“I think it’s only a matter of time before someone is hurt so badly that he’ll never pitch again,” Kurkjian said. “This is a hard game played by hard men. I maintain that little white ball can scare the life out of anyone.”