McCann shaken, but relieved Salazar will be OK
Catcher will play Friday; Class A manager undergoes surgeries
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Brian McCann still looked concerned and distressed when he returned to the Braves' clubhouse Thursday morning. But the All-Star catcher was also certainly relieved to have the chance to discuss how Luis Salazar had survived the trauma he suffered after getting hit in the face by a line drive foul less than 24 hours earlier.
"It's still hard," McCann said. "You just think the worst could have happened and it didn't. The way the ball hit him and the way he hit the ground, he's just very, very lucky."
Salazar avoided potentially fatal injuries after getting hit in the left eye by McCann foul ball that knocked him unconscious and caused him to hit his head on the dugout at Champion Stadium Wednesday afternoon. The 54-year-old former Major League utility player suffered multiple facial fractures and will soon learn the extent of damage done to his left eye.
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"When you deal with this, you just have to pray for the best," McCann said. "There's nothing you can do. It's just a helpless, sick feeling. I just immediately started thinking about his family, his kids and his wife. You just hope everything is going to be all right."
After getting a chance to ease his mind Thursday, McCann is expected to return to the lineup for Friday's 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Yankees in Tampa, Fla.
"I think [McCann] has handled it well," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Obviously, at the very beginning, it's tough. But I do think it's a good thing that he went to the hospital with Dr. [Joe] Chandler and got to see the family and got to see Louie."
McCann spent time at Orlando's Regional Medical Center on Wednesday, waiting for the opportunity to at least allow Salazar to know he was there. He was also able to spend a few moments with Salazar's wife and 31-year-old son Carlos, who was at the stadium when his father was hit.
"It just puts everything in perspective," McCann said. "We're playing a game. I'm just so thankful that there's no brain damage and that he's going to be able to walk away from it."
When the left-handed-hitting McCann yanked a Kyle Lohse pitch into the first-base dugout during the first inning of Wednesday's game against the Cardinals, he was unaware that the foul ball could have proven fatal to Salazar.
Once he saw the commotion, McCann made his way toward the dugout and was overcome with fear as he saw a motionless Salazar, his face covered in blood. His left eye took most of the impact from the ball, but the Minor League manager also suffered trauma when he unconsciously fell over the length of four steps and hit his head against the rubberized surface that covers the dugout's floor.
As paramedics attempted to determine whether Salazar was breathing, McCann was among the many growing more concerned.
"You feel helpless," McCann said. "You sit there and you're helpless. You just pray for the best. It's a sickening feeling."
After taking a half-hearted swing at a two-strike changeup to conclude his first-inning at-bat, McCann went to the clubhouse to prepare to go to the hospital. A few minutes earlier, he had seen Salazar exit the stadium in an ambulance that would take him to an area to be airlifted to the hospital.
McCann was able to exhale when a Florida state trooper entered the clubhouse to inform him that Salazar was breathing and showing some signs of consciousness when he got on the helicopter. But McCann said he never truly felt a sense of relief until early Thursday morning, when doctors revealed Salazar didn't suffer any brain damage.
"That was so lucky," McCann said. "The way [the ball] hit and the way he hit, my heart just sunk. I've never had that feeling before in my life, and it's something I never want to experience again."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.