By La Velle
Baseball writers learn not to take some injuries lightly. There have been too many times that a sprain or a pull has been diagnosed as a day-to-day situation but has turned into a two-week absence from the lineup.
So I cringed in the pressbox at U.S. Cellular Field last night when it was announced that Denard Span was O.K. after getting hit in the head by a Randy Williams’ fastball in the sixth inning. Then I grew more concerned after talking with Span, who clearly was still out of it after the game.
I think his quote, “I don’t even want to think about baseball after getting hit like that,” influenced me. I also was influenced when he told us that doctors told him that he had a mild concussion.
Twins beanball history suggests Span will need some time off. That’s a huge development because the Twins have just 12 games to make up 2.5 games on Detroit in the division race and Span is their only true leadoff hitter and most versatile outfielder.
Alex Ochoa, May 5, 1998: The Twins were in Boston. Ochoa was warming up with teammates when Darren Lewis lined a foul ball into the group.
There were two noises, the ball off Lewis’ bat and the ball hitting Ochoa squarely in the back of the head. Ochoa let out a blood-curdling scream and fell to the ground. Ugh. Fortunately, he was hit in the thickest part of the skull. He missed two games. It helped that he was down the line in foul territory and not closer.
Matt Lawton, June 9, 1999: A Dennys Reyes fastball smoked Lawton in the face, causing two fractures in his right eye socket. He missed six weeks and it took even longer for him to feel fully comfortable in the batter’s box.
(Funny side note: Dick Martin, the Twins’ trainer at the time, ran out of the field to help Lawton right after the beaning. “I can’t see! I can’t see!” Lawton yelled. “Open your eyes!” Martin replied. Lawton did, and realized he could still see.)
Justin Morneau, April 6,2005: Morneau was hit on the temple by a Ron Villone fastball in Seattle. He was diagnosed with a mild concussion and landed on the 15-day disabled list. It was the fifth concussion for the former hockey player. Some believed it affected him the rest of the season.
Torii Hunter, March 2, 2007: Hunter was hit in the head by a Kyle Lohse pitch during a spring game against the Twins and Reds. Hunter missed three days (although I remember Hunter claiming he could have returned sooner).
Torii Hunter, April 26, 2007: Tough year for Hunter. He was hit in the mouth by a Zack Greinke pitch and needed three stitches to close a laceration on the inside of his lip. Somehow, he played the next day and extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
Conclusion: What helped Span on Monday was that 1) He turned his head and 2) It hit the helmet and not his head. It doesn’t help that he’s already been dizzy once this year, when he had vestibular neuritis in June.
The way he looked and sounded last night, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him on the bench tonight. Especically against lefty John Danks. I will be impressed if he can play.
But Span’s worth to his lineup can’t be taken lightly. He’s easily the third most valuable hitter behind Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau – and Morneau is already out with a stress fracture in his back. Even a few games off puts the Twins at a big disadvantage as they are running out of time in the playoff chase.