LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Upon hearing that Jeff Francoeur got hit in the lip with a pitch during Sunday afternoon's game against the Cardinals, Braves pitcher Tim Hudson playfully said his initial thought was, "How did it miss his nose?"
All anatomical jokes aside, Francoeur came back to Disney's Wide World of Sports complex on Wednesday afternoon, looking normal and feeling excited about returning to the Braves lineup on Thursday night, when they host the Tigers.
"The quicker I can get back in there, the better," said Francoeur, acknowledging that a fear can develop after getting hit in the face with a pitch. "I want to try to get going as soon as possible. This isn't something you want to let linger."
Unfortunately for Francoeur, he's already gained an understanding of what it takes to fight back after getting hit in the face. And at the same time, he's fortunate that the Todd Wellemeyer offspeed pitch that struck the left side of his lip wasn't nearly as destructive as the pitch that broke his jaw midway through the 2004 season.
While playing for Class A Myrtle Beach during that summer day four years ago, Francoeur was squaring to bunt, when he fouled a pitch that essentially crushed his jaw bone. His jaw is still held together with the help of a metal plate that fortunately wasn't affected on Sunday.
"[The doctor] said I'm a lucky guy," Francoeur said. "He said another half-inch lower, I probably would have done something to my jaw. He said, another half-inch over this way, I probably would have done something to my teeth. And another half-inch up, it would have hit in the cheekbone. So he said, it actually hit in a good place."
Francoeur said his response was, "I don't feel lucky because I just got hit in the face for the second time in four years. But I do feel lucky, because this close to the [end] of Spring Training, that could have been something that put me out for a while."
While taking batting practice on Wednesday, Francoeur showed no signs of restrictions. The 24-year-old Gold Glove outfielder said the swelling that had still existed on Monday was almost completely gone by Tuesday.
Francoeur said that he has spent parts of the past three days gargling salt-water to help heal some of the small cuts that exist within his mouth. He didn't need stitches and didn't lose any of his teeth.
"The outside feels fine," Francoeur said. "It's still a little rough on the inside.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.