05/23/11 12:19 AM ET
Byrd to DL with multiple facial fractures
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"An inch to the right or left, maybe it gets my full eye," Byrd said. "As long as I can see and there's no brain damage, I'm blessed."
Byrd was back with the Cubs and ready to board the team flight to Chicago after getting hit by a 93-mph fastball in the face 24 hours earlier. What isn't known is how long he'll be sidelined after suffering multiple facial fractures from being hit by a pitch.
"It's still sore," Byrd said after the Cubs' 5-1 loss to the Red Sox on Sunday. "I've got a couple fractures up here but other than that I have my vision, no brain damage. It could've been worse, so no complaints."
Byrd was placed on the 15-day disabled list and there was no timetable for his return. He spent Saturday night at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary to be examined and will see specialists in Chicago this week. A team official said it will be several days before they know the full severity of the injury. They need to wait for the swelling to subside.
Byrd wasn't sure what type of tests he'll have to undergo.
"You have to talk to the neurologists, radiologists, opthamologists, other 'ologists,'" he said. "I'll go through it and do what I need to do."
Any concerns he had were calmed by the early results Saturday night.
"I'm not saying I'm in the clear, but last night really showed some things to me," Byrd said.
Does he have a timetable to return?
"Sometime this season," Byrd said. "Whenever it heals. I don't want to go out there and make it worse. Whenever I'm healthy."
"It's a dangerous game and fear is a part of the game," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "I've seen middle linebackers come out for [batting practice] and have somebody really cut [a pitch] loose, and it's not that comfortable in [the batter's box]."
The Cubs had a scare last September when outfielder Tyler Colvin was struck in the chest by a broken bat that punctured his lung and ended his season prematurely.
"The Colvin thing was more freakish," Quade said. "We've seen people get hit. With certain things that are happening in the game now and the speed of the game and everything else, it's dangerous in a different way than football is. I'm amazed every night with line drives going in the stands that things don't get worse."
With one out in the Cubs' second and the count 1-2 against Alfredo Aceves, Byrd was struck by a fastball and dropped to the dirt. He grabbed his face and was kicking his feet, which he said he did out of panic because he couldn't see. He was eventually able to walk off under his own power with a bloody gash under his eye.
"There's nothing you can do about a walk or a hit by pitch," Aceves said. "Nothing intentional, obviously."
"I know it wasn't intentional," Byrd said. "It's part of baseball. It's 60 feet, 6 inches, and sometimes it doesn't always go where you want it to. When someone is throwing 93 [mph], it's hard to get out of the way."
Aceves started with two curveballs, then a changeup and then tried to throw a fastball inside. It went too far and too high.
"The ball just rolled in, and it just got away from him a little bit," said Byrd, who has watched a video of the incident.
Byrd never lost consciousness. Aceves tried to contact the Cubs outfielder to see if he was all right.
"I tried," Aceves said. "I called the doctors a few times and I never got any answer. I wanted to talk to him to see if he was OK. I was worried."
Had he ever let one get that far away before?
"No," Aceves said.
"You just pray for him," Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron said. "That's the biggest thing. His face will heal up, his fractures will heal up. He's always been tough. It'll impact him a little bit when he first comes back, but you just pray that everything stays in there together so he has baseball vision. Not only vision in itself, but baseball vision because that's what the man does."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona kept in touch with his team's chief internist to get updates.
"That's scary what happened," Francona said. "I don't care what uniform you're in, that makes you nervous."
Byrd's wife, Andrea, was on the trip. She's going to have to prepare his daughter.
"My daughter doesn't like me having 'boo boos' on my face," Byrd said. "Now she's going to be mad at me."
Byrd was batting .308 with three home runs and 11 RBIs, and had hit safely in 18 of his past 21 games. Reed Johnson took over in center field on Sunday and may be getting a lot of playing time.
"You prepare yourself so when something like this comes along, you're able to step in," Johnson said. "You've got big shoes to fill. He's been consistent the last three, four years of his career. He's been the guy who's been putting up numbers every single year and those are the guys you want in your lineup on an everyday basis.
"You watch a guy like that," Johnson said, "and he doesn't have to say anything as a leader -- you just watch the way he plays, and guys watch his commitment to the game and how he plays the game, and guys feed off that. That's tough when you're missing a piece like that, and not only what he does from a numbers standpoint, but what he brings as far as playing the game the right way."
After seeing Byrd go down so quickly, it was good to see him talking to his teammates in the clubhouse.
"I'm hard-headed," he joked. "I'm very lucky it didn't get my eye. It's just a fracture. When it didn't hit the helmet, I thought it would be worse."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.