Salazar has eye removed, still plans to manage
Minor League skipper expects to fulfill duties at Lynchburg
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After holding out hope for a few extra days, doctors were unable to prevent Braves Minor League manager Luis Salazar from losing his left eye.
Braves general manager Frank Wren announced the development on Wednesday morning, one week after Salazar was knocked unconscious by a foul ball and airlifted to the Orlando Regional Medical Center in seemingly grave condition.
"As the doctor told us from the very beginning, in the big picture, this is a really good outcome," Wren said.
After Salazar was hit in the left eye by a liner that left-handed slugger Brian McCann pulled into the first-base dugout at Champion Stadium, he fell unconscious, slamming his head against the rubberized surface of the dugout floor.
Initially, there were fears that the trauma might have been fatal. Once it was evident he would survive, his friends and family members rejoiced when doctors informed them Salazar didn't suffer any brain damage.
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But the hope for one more miraculous development was erased Tuesday, when doctors performed one more surgical procedure on Salazar's left eye and determined that they would have to remove it.
"Despite the best efforts of really skilled eye specialists here in Orlando, they were not able to save his eye," Wren said.
Even with all that Salazar has endured, Wren said the 54-year-old former Major League utility player has kept his spirits high and continues to look forward to the opportunity to fulfill his duties as manager of Class A Advanced Lynchburg. This is his first season with the Braves organization.
Wren said doctors believe Salazar could return to full-time coaching and managerial duties in the next four to six weeks.
"Doctors have told us and him that there's no reason within the next four to six weeks he couldn't manage his team as anticipated," Wren said.
After the eye surgeon returns Wednesday for an evaluation, Salazar could be cleared to return to his Boca Raton, Fla., home immediately, or by Thursday at the latest. He will need to return to Orlando next week for another evaluation.
Salazar may attempt to return to the Braves' Spring Training complex next week. The opportunity to simply watch some of his players might prove therapeutic.
"He's progressing very well," Wren said. "Right now, he's focused on getting back to work. Louie is a baseball guy. He loves managing. He loves coaching. He loves being around the game. Right now, his entire focus is getting back on the field and getting back to doing what he loves."
When a blood-covered Salazar exited Champion Stadium in an ambulance last week, paramedics weren't detecting anything more than "shallow" breathing. He began breathing on his own and regaining consciousness when he was placed on a helicopter that airlifted him to the hospital.
With a few hours after learning that he had been hit, Salazar's friends and family members were relieved to learn he would live and that he hadn't suffered any brain damage.
Unfortunately, there wasn't another miraculous development in relation to his left eye. But Wren and many others know this ending could have proven to be much more tragic.
"This is one of those things where you clearly have to have the big picture in mind," Wren said. "If you focus on everything else, it can be tough. But I think he has the right attitude. His family has the right attitude, and they're looking forward to him moving forward and to him managing the Lynchburg Hillcats."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.