Happ feels 'very fortunate' day after incident

Blue Jays lefty avoids serious injury after being struck in head by liner

Happ feels 'very fortunate' day after incident

ST. PETERSBURG -- Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ surprised the baseball world by making an appearance at Tropicana Field on Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after he was struck in the head by a line drive.

Happ was released from Bayfront Medical Center earlier in the afternoon after undergoing a series of tests and a CT scan. He was diagnosed with a minor fracture on the left side of his skull, but miraculously avoided a concussion.

In a cruel twist of fate, Happ also suffered a right knee injury on the play. He appeared to twist his knee on the way to the ground and had to be evaluated by a specialist on Wednesday night.

Thankfully for Happ and the Blue Jays there wasn't any major damage done to ligaments in the area. He has been diagnosed with a knee sprain and will not require surgery.

Happ's presence alone provided a major sense of relief to the Blue Jays' clubhouse. His teammates continued on Tuesday night after the unfortunate scene, but it's clear for a long period of time their minds were understandably elsewhere. The first positive signs were received later that night and became even more encouraging the following day when he made an appearance.

The situation is far from ideal and could have been a lot worse after he received a direct hit to the head on a scorching line drive off the bat of Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings.

"I feel very fortunate," Happ told a large group of reporters during a late-afternoon news conference. "I would like to say too that the whole baseball community has been unbelievable with the messages I'm receiving, the things people are saying and all the prayers, I really think that helped.

"It looks like I moved just a little bit, I don't remember doing that, but it looks like just enough that it must have caught me in a better spot. I got some stitches and there's a fracture in the bone in my skull behind my ear. But it's not serious or threatening. We'll let those heal."

Happ's memory of the incident is foggy at best, but he did remain conscious throughout. He was responsive to the teammates and medical staff that came to his aide in the ensuing moments and was able to place a phone call to his mother Sue on the ambulance ride to the hospital.

When the ball made contact with Happ's head, it created a sickening sound that had everyone in attendance fearing for the worst. Happ immediately dropped to the ground and replays would later show that there was blood pouring from the left side of his head.

Happ was eventually removed from the field on a stretcher and has since been placed on the 15-day disabled list. The situation was reminiscent of former A's right-hander Brandon McCarthy being struck in the head during a game against the Angels on Sept. 5, 2012.

McCarthy was able to walk off the field under his own power, but was later diagnosed with a skull fracture and brain contusion. He underwent intensive surgery, but is back in the big leagues, pitching for the D-backs.

"I felt a lot of pressure on my ear, that's why I was holding it. I looked down and saw some blood on my hand," Happ said. "Obviously with the Brandon McCarthy injury last year, this type of thing is scary, you never know. Bu the paramedics and our trainers did a great job, they kept me comfortable and kept me calmed down."

In a cruel twist of fate, Happ also suffered a right knee injury on the play. He appeared to twist his knee on the way to the ground and was scheduled to visit a local doctor to undergo further evaluations on Wednesday night.

When Happ left the Bayfront Medical Center earlier in the day, he had to use crutches. He arrived at Tropicana Field the same way, but walked to the podium without any type of support. There was a noticeable limp in his step, but the hope is that the injury is just a minor sprain and he didn't damage any ligaments in the area.

Happ's presence alone provided a major sense of relief to the Blue Jays' clubhouse. His teammates continued on Tuesday night after the unfortunate scene, but it's clear for a long period of time their minds were understandably elsewhere. The first positive signs were received later that night and became even more encouraging the following day when he made an appearance.

"The first thing I did when I came in after the game yesterday was walk into the training room and ask if we had any news yet," Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia said on Wednesday. "First thing I did when I got to the hotel was text him and tell him I was praying for him.

"Then he responded, which I didn't know if he [would be able to do], then I was able to ask him how he was doing. He was able to tell me he was OK, had a cut on his ear, a contusion behind his ear as well. First him responding to me was already a positive and to be able to hear that it was just that is definitely a blessing."

The incident has reopened the debate about whether pitchers should be forced to wear protective head gear on the mound. That topic received a lot of attention following McCarthy's injury and likely will pick up steam again this year.

Happ remained non-committal when he was asked about the controversial topic during his news conference. Several players pointed out that the ball hit Happ low enough on the head that a helmet likely wouldn't have made a difference, and the veteran lefty wasn't exactly sure what to think.

"To be honest, it's not something I've put a ton of thought into. I think it's a difficult thing," Happ said. "I guess you'd have to see some prototypes, that kind of thing. It'd be tough. I know most pitchers have a little bit of head-whip when they throw.

"I think it'd be difficult to find a hat that fits properly, but I'm sure it could be done in this day and age. But to be honest, I haven't put a ton of thought into it."

Happ is scheduled to remain in the Central Florida area for the immediate future. Doctors have advised him not to fly for the time being and he likely will eventually rehab at the Blue Jays' Minor League complex in nearby Dunedin, Fla.

The native of Illinois also will continue to undergo additional tests to ensure his condition remains stable. There's no timetable for his return to the mound, but whenever that day comes, he's looking forward to continuing on with his career.

"I think you've just got to get back out there and try to forget about it," Happ said when asked about the potential fear of pitching again. "I won't know till I'm up there, but I don't anticipate it being a problem.

"I don't think there's a ton of concern. Obviously, if the symptoms change, I need to let [the doctors] know, but I think they're pretty confident that things will be fine."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.