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Blue Jays players and staff cluster around pitcher Francisco Liriano after he was hit by line drive in Arlington, Tex., Friday. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)
Blue Jays players and staff cluster around pitcher Francisco Liriano after he was hit by line drive in Arlington, Tex., Friday. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Liriano cleared to fly home with Blue Jays after line drive to head Add to ...

As the ambulance slowly pulled away from the main entrance to the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse at Globe Life Park on Friday, Kevin Pillar put his hand on the side of the vehicle in a solemn gesture to a fallen colleague.

Moments earlier, teammate Francisco Liriano was seen being wheeled from the clubhouse on a stretcher, his head supported in a neck brace, and loaded into the back of the emergency vehicle for a trip to the hospital.

Liriano was pitching in the eighth inning of Toronto’s playoff game against the Texas Rangers on Friday when he was struck in the head by a line drive from Carlos Gomez.

Liriano ducked at the last moment but the ball, estimated to be hurtling at 102 miles an hour, caught him in the back of the head before deflecting all the way into centre field.

Liriano seemed unfazed by the frightening incident, immediately putting a hand up to the back of his head before scurrying over to third base to back up a possible throw.

Liriano returned to the mound where he was joined by Toronto manager John Gibbons and members of the training staff to be checked over.

After a few moments, Liriano was taken out of the game, which the Blue Jays went on to win 5-3.

Liriano walked off the field on his own accord but the team later made the decision to send him to hospital. Liriano was examined at the hospital and has been cleared to fly home with the team.

“He got hit back somewhere in here,” Gibbons said afterward, his hand on the back of his head. “I couldn’t tell you exactly where. So he’s just going for some further tests.

“Anytime you get a head injury you gotta get it looked at. So that’s about the extent of it right now.”

J.A. Happ, the Blue Jays starter Friday, was hit in the head by a line drive while playing for Toronto in 2013 in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

He suffered a small fracture behind the ear and injured his knee when he crumpled to the ground.

Happ said he is hoping for a much better outcome for Liriano.

“I don’t know exactly what’s going on but obviously we’re thinking about him a lot,” Happ said. “I know he’s not here right now. Hoping for the best for the results but, yeah, that was scary.”

The injury to Liriano is not the only medical concern the Blue Jays have as they return to Toronto needing just one more win to eliminate the Rangers from the American League Division Series.

Heading into Friday’s game, Gibbons had to alter his starting lineup at the last moment when Devon Travis, originally pencilled in to bat leadoff and play second base, had to be scratched with what the team described as “right knee irritation.”

Travis, Toronto’s most consistent hitter in the regular season, said the knee was bothering him a bit during Thursday’s game.

“I don’t know what happened but something happened,” Travis said after Friday’s win.

When he woke up Friday morning, the pain was bad enough that he contacted the Blue Jays training staff. He was given a cortisone shot but it did not have the desired effect.

“It’s pain, it hurts pretty good,” Travis said.

Always upbeat with a sunny disposition, Travis looked genuinely concerned about the extent of his injury and his ability to play Sunday.

“I want to be optimistic, figure out tomorrow what exactly is going on,” said Travis, who has an MRI scheduled. “Until then I don’t know what’s going on.”

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