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Jays' Happ hit by line drive, hospitalized

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Toronto starting pitcher J.A. Happ is taken off the field on a stretcher after being hit with a line drive off the bat of Tampa Bay Rays' Desmond Jennings during the second inning of Tuesday's game.

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Toronto starting pitcher J.A. Happ is taken off the field on a stretcher after being hit with a line drive off the bat of Tampa Bay Rays' Desmond Jennings during the second inning of Tuesday's game.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It was a sickening sound.

A line drive that hit J.A. Happ in the head so hard the "thwack!" could be heard up in the press box.

And then, silence.

Desmond Jennings' second-inning liner caromed squarely off the left side of Happ's head, and the Blue Jays pitcher was taken off the field on a stretcher during Toronto's 6-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.

The team said Happ was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where he was alert and undergoing tests. Nursing supervisor Natasha Keller told The Associated Press that Happ had been admitted to the hospital and was in stable condition.

"I think the last indication was that he was alert and feeling better and had gone for a CT scan. That's the last I heard," Toronto pitcher R.A. Dickey said.

The ball went all the way into the bullpen in foul territory halfway down the right-field line. Happ dropped face down at the front of the mound, holding his head with his glove and bare hand.

Jennings ended up on third base with a two-run triple. Team trainers, paramedics and medical officials rushed to Happ's aid as Tropicana Field fell into a hush.

"It's devastating. ... I could barely watch it," Dickey said. "You just don't know what to think, really. It paralyzes you a little bit. And when it sounds like two bats, when you hear the sound off the bat and it sounds like it hits another bat, it's scary. It's really, really scary. I just started praying in the spot. That's all I knew to do."

Jennings stood with his hands on his head, and other players were visibly concerned as they watched Happ receive medical attention for about eight minutes.

"I just saw it come off the bat hot, and when it hit him I knew it hit him hard," said Ryan Roberts, who was in the on-deck circle for Tampa Bay. "I instantly started praying for him. That's a situation you never want to see. It's unfortunate. I hope he recovers and hope he's back pitching as soon as possible. That's something in a game you hate to see."

Jennings left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters.

Toronto manager John Gibbons stood on the mound as Happ was strapped to a backboard and immobilized. The left-hander was lifted onto a stretcher and wheeled off the field through an opening behind home plate.

"That was a real scary moment," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That was awful. I hope that he's well."

Just before he disappeared under the stands, Happ raised his right hand and waved. He received a standing ovation from the crowd, and the game resumed after an 11-minute delay.

Happ's injury was the latest to a pitcher struck by a batted ball during the last few years, and Major League Baseball has discussed ways to protect hurlers on the mound.

"We are actively meeting with a number of companies that are attempting to develop a product, and have reviewed test results for several products," MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told the AP in an email after Happ was injured Tuesday night.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 8, 2013 D8

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