Rockies' Nix out for rest of Olympics
Second baseman hit in the face by pitch after attempting bunt
BEIJING -- Rockies prospect Jayson Nix is out for the rest of the Summer Olympics, after being hit in the face while trying to bunt during the USA's 5-4 loss to Cuba on Friday.
He was recovering at the Olympic Village during the United States' game against Canada and seems likely to progress back to 100 percent.
Nix has a 1 1/2-inch gash just above his left eyebrow, penetrating to his skull, and required interior and exterior stitching. There is heavy swelling and he was forced to sleep at a 45-degree angle in his bed, eyes bandaged, as doctors wanted to be careful about blood that had massed behind his left eye.
"Jayson is resting comfortably at the Village under doctor's supervision," said John Blundell, team spokesman for USA Baseball. "It's possible he will be able to rejoin the team in the dugout in the next two or three days."
Blundell said the second baseman called his father -- who was watching the Cuba game on television back in Texas -- to ease concern as much as possible. Dan O'Dowd, the Rockies' general manager, also spoke by phone after the incident with USA Baseball GM Bob Watson, and was given the medical report.
It was expected that Nix would be recalled by his parent team when rosters expand on Sept. 1, and it is too early to speculate on whether this injury would affect that possibility. He is on the Rockies' 40-man organizational roster and was playing for Triple-A Colorado Springs at the time of the U.S. roster formation. Dexter Fowler, who was batting at leadoff immediately ahead of Nix in the lineup, is also here representing the Rockies organization and has been a Sky Sox teammate.
Sunday is a rest day for the baseball competition, following four consecutive days of baseball at the Wukesong Sports Complex. Play resumes Monday, with three consecutive days of games. Monday is a 7 p.m. game against China local time, instead of midday contest, so that could be an opportunity to be around fellow players if Nix feels up to it.
Nix's presence in the dugout, if only for support, could mean a lot. And vice-versa.
He had hit the solo homer off Pedro Luis Lazo in the eighth inning that forced extras against Cuba, and he was chosen by manager Davey Johnson to lead off when the new Extra Innings Rule was required for the 11th inning. With men automatically on first and second to start the inning, Nix squared around to bunt, and Lazo's pitch skimmed off his bat and struck him square on the face.
Lazo actually went to the plate to check on Nix while the hitter was down. There was a mild controversy afterward when Johnson accused Cuba of throwing at his hitter's head, but even other members of the U.S. team the following day cast doubt on that, suggesting it was merely heat-of-the-moment comments. Replays clearly showed that Nix was squared around and that it was a part-of-the-game injury -- albeit a bad one.
Amid heavy bleeding, Nix had an icepack applied to his face and was then rushed through the dugout and taken on a two-hospital Olympic trip. The first was to the PLH, where a CAT scan and surgery was required. He was then taken to Chinese-Japanese Friendship Hospital, and was observed by an eye doctor.
Nix was 2-for-9 in the Olympics, including the team's first hit of the tournament, a double, in the first inning against Korea in the opener -- and also including the homer on his last official at-bat. Nix had to be replaced by Brian Barden during his fateful 11th-inning at-bat. Barden was able to drop a sacrifice bunt, but the lone U.S. run was not enough and the team faced the rest of this tournament without one of its best players.
Nix's involvement here was memorable, as the 25-year-old got a chance to meet with President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. Nix, who lives in Dallas, attended high school in Midland, Texas, where the First Lady is from. He said that meeting with the Bushes was his highlight of the Opening Ceremony. Nix also said that he and the president chatted at length behind the batting cage during the Bushes' visit last Monday.
It seems probable, although unknown as of yet, that Nix would be able to travel back to the States with his teammates. Each team has to play each other once for a total of seven preliminary games, and then the field will be reduced from eight to four for the Aug. 22 semifinal games. The medal games are Aug. 23.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.