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Happ heard 'loud ringing'

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Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ shows off his wounds at Wednesday's press conference.

MIKE CARLSON / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ shows off his wounds at Wednesday's press conference.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- J.A. Happ says he experienced an "immediate, loud ringing" in his ear when he was hit in the head by a line drive Tuesday night.

The Toronto Blue Jays left-hander was released from hospital Wednesday after being hit on the left side of his head by a ball off the bat of Desmond Jennings during Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Speaking to reporters at Tropicana Field, Happ says he remembers releasing the ball but not seeing it coming back at him.

In addition to the ringing in his ears, Happ says he also felt intense pressure.

Happ sustained a head bruise and cut to his left ear.

He says he moved out of the way slightly, which likely prevented a more serious injury.

"I got some stitches and there's a fracture in my skull... behind my ear," he said. "But it's not serious or threatening."

Happ said he also tweaked his knee when he fell. Doctors were to see him Wednesday night to determine the severity of that injury.

He was placed on the 15-day disabled list rather than the seven-day concussion DL.

The frightening incident left players on both teams shaken and revived questions about whether Major League Baseball is doing enough to protect pitchers, who often find themselves in harm's way on the mound.

The pitcher raised his glove in front of his face as quickly as he could, a futile attempt to shield himself from the batted ball headed straight for his temple.

It was too late. Thwack!

The sickening sound of a sharply hit baseball striking his skull was heard all the way up in the press box.

And then, sheer silence.

Happ, hit squarely in the second inning during Toronto's 6-4 victory, was immobilized on a backboard, lifted onto a stretcher and wheeled off the field.

It was the latest injury to a pitcher struck by a batted ball in the last few years, and baseball has discussed ways to protect hurlers who ply their craft against the world's strongest hitters -- only 60 feet, six inches from home plate.

General managers discussed the issue during their meetings in November and MLB presented several ideas at the winter meetings weeks later.

MLB staff have said a cap liner with Kevlar, the material used in body armour for the military, law enforcement and NFL players, is among the ideas under consideration.

The liners, weighing perhaps five ounces or less, would go under a pitcher's cap and help protect against line drives that often travel over 100 m.p.h.

Jennings' liner caromed off Happ's head and halfway up the right-field line in foul territory as Jennings raced around the bases for a two-run triple. The 30-year-old Happ dropped face down at the front of the mound, holding his head with his glove and bare hand.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 9, 2013 D8

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