Kuroda lucky to escape major injury
Right-hander in good condition after taking liner to the head
PHOENIX -- Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda apparently escaped serious injury despite being hit on the side of the head above the right ear by a Rusty Ryal line drive in the bottom of the sixth inning of Saturday night's game with the D-backs, which the Dodgers lost, 4-3, in 10 innings.
Trainer Stan Conte said Kuroda never lost consciousness and a CT scan was negative, revealing no fractures or bleeding. Kuroda will be kept overnight at a local hospital for observation with a likely concussion, although doctors were willing to release him, Conte said.
"It's kind of amazing," said Conte. "He looked pretty good, considering. He got a little nauseous and that got us going."
Kuroda, his neck immobilized, was taken off the field on a cart with his body strapped to a spine board. As the cart began moving, Kuroda lifted both arms briefly in an apparent signal that he was conscious and capable of moving.
Conte said medical studies have determined that a baseball hitting a pitcher's head at 90 mph generates twice the force that would result in a serious brain injury.
"He has no problems and that's really lucky," he said.
Kuroda went down immediately when struck, landing on his side while grabbing his head with both hands, then rolling onto his back. Second baseman Orlando Hudson was the first teammate to reach him, followed immediately by the Dodgers training staff and manager Joe Torre, who waved interpreter Kenji Nimura to the mound for assistance.
The ball deflected off Kuroda's head, bounced off the warning track by the D-backs' on-deck circle and into the stands for a ground-rule double. An obviously shaken Ryal came to the mound to check on Kuroda and was soon ushered away by Arizona manager A.J. Hinch.
"It's unfortunate. You want everyone to be safe and have success in this game. you don't wish that upon anybody," said Ryal, called up from Triple-A six days earlier. "My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. I hope he's doing alright right now. You get that sick feeling in your stomach. Scary, just scary. I was just scared and I'm sure everyone else in the stadium, probably his teammates got to be feeling gut-wrenching about it.
"I sent him a letter over there to tell him best wishes, get well soon and I hope to see him back out there. I just wanted to go up there and see for myself if he was doing OK or if I could hear anything about him talking or just to show that I care about people. You don't want to see that happen to anyone. It was just unfortunate."
Prior to Ryal's at-bat, Kuroda was cruising with a two-hit shutout through five innings and a 3-0 Dodgers lead. The game was delayed by about 15 minutes and James McDonald took over for Kuroda.
The incident was reminiscent of a tragic injury suffered by another Dodgers pitcher from Japan, Kazuhisa Ishii, who was struck in the forehead by a line drive off the bat of Houston Astros outfielder Brian Hunter in a twilight game at Dodger Stadium Sept. 8, 2002. Ishii suffered a fractured skull.
It was the second time a pitcher had been struck in the head by a line drive at Chase Field. Houston's Billy Wagner was drilled in 1998 by Kelly Stinnett.
Brad Ausmus was catching Kuroda on Saturday night, was catching Wagner in 1998 and was in the Astros dugout at Dodger Stadium when Ishii was injured.
"Ishii's was probably the worst," said Ausmus. "Wagner went down bad. Kuroda was a lot more with it than Wagner was at the time. Actually, he looked pretty good, all things considered.
"I saw the line drive and I saw it hit Kuroda and it looked like he tried to duck."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.