Toronto Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ has been released from a Florida hospital.
Bayfront Medical Center said in a statement that Happ was discharged after being upgraded from fair to good condition on Wednesday. Happ remained in hospital overnight for tests and observation, after a line drive struck him flush in the left side of the head in the second inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.
Happ extended his appreciation with a statement released by the hospital.
"I'm in good spirits," Happ said. "I definitely appreciate the support of the baseball community. It's been overwhelming the messages and kind words I've been getting. I just want to thank everyone for that, and I look forward to getting back out there soon."
The Blue Jays have placed the starter on the 15-day disabled list with a head contusion.
Happ had delivered a fastball to Desmond Jennings with the count at three balls and one strike in the second inning. The Tropicana Field crowd of 10,723 stood in stunned silence as Happ lay prone on the front of the mound for about six minutes.
“You don’t know what to think,” said fellow starter R.A. Dickey, after the Jays completed a comeback from three runs down with two runs in the ninth inning for a 6-4 win over the Rays. “When you hear the sound off the bat and it sounds like it hits another bat, it’s scary. It’s really scary, and you just start praying.”
Happ remained conscious, and the the first outward sign of an optimistic outcome occurred when Happ raised his hand to near his ear, and his legs moved. Following an 11-minute delay, medics wheeled him off on a stretcher to be transported to the hospital. He waved weakly as the stretcher exited the field and the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
“His knee was kind of bugging him and he wanted to turn his knee over and we told him to stay put,” third baseman Brett Lawrie said, after the game. “It’s tough to see a guy like that go down. It’s scary. Play continues, and you don’t know he’s doing, or what’s happening. It’s just a bad situation, bad, bad. But he was conversing and I hope he’s going to be alright.”
Brad Lincoln replaced Happ on the mound, the first of four relievers to shut down the Rays the rest of the way, as the offence recovered from a 4-1 deficit.
“It’s on your mind, definitely, but you’ve just got to go out there and bear down,” said Lincoln. “You don’t really think about it when you’re out there on the mound. Then when you see it happen it makes you step back and think, there’s always that possibility. When it happened, I kind of had an idea it would be me, and it’s on the back of your mind but you just try to move on and get past it.”
Happ was injured 56 years after one of the most frightening incidents in baseball history. Herb Score of the Cleveland Indians suffered broken facial bones and an injured eye from a line drive hit by Gil McDougald of the New York Yankees. Score was never again as effective, though historians have written that he refused to cite that incident as the reason.
While pitchers withstand the injury commonly, a Major League Baseball spokesman indicated that unspecified protective devices are being tested.
In the last two months of the 2012 season alone, Doug Fister of the Tigers was hit on the side of the head during Game 2 of the World Series in the same manner as Happ, at the end of his delivery with his weight on the plant foot. Fister remained in the game after being struck by Gregor Blanco’s line drive. On Sept. 5, 2012, a line drive off the bat of the Angels’ Erick Aybar struck Oakland pitcher Brandon McCarthy on the right side of the head, fracturing his skull and causing an epidural hemorrhage. He needed two hours of brain surgery. A week later, on Sept. 12, Dave Sappelt’s liner deflected off Mickey Storey’s pitching hand before hitting him in the jaw. He walked off with the help of trainers.
McCarthy, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, ironically pitched on Tuesday night, going 6-1/3 innings against the Dodgers.
Happ came to the Jays in a trade with Houston last July and made the rotation this spring as Ricky Romero was kept back at camp to work on his delivery.