Liriano released from hospital, returns to ballpark
Outfielder sustained facial fractures after being hit by pitch
PHOENIX -- Mere hours after Brewers manager Craig Counsell visited outfielder Rymer Liriano in the hospital early Monday morning, Liriano surprised everyone by returning the favor.
Less than 24 hours after he sustained facial and nasal fractures caused by a pitch to the face, Liriano was released from the hospital in time to visit Maryvale Baseball Park before the Brewers rallied in the ninth inning for a 4-3 win over the Angels. Liriano still faces a long rehabilitation, Counsell noted, but seeing him at the field so soon provided the Brewers a boost.
"I think everyone was kind of blown away," Counsell said. "He was smiling, laughed a little bit. He was in good spirits."
As his swelling subsides, Liriano will undergo further testing in the coming days to determine whether he requires any surgical procedures. When Counsell visited the hospital on the way to the ballpark early Monday morning, Liriano mentioned the possible visit. Counsell wondered to himself whether it was just wishful thinking.
"He looks like he got hit by a baseball," Counsell said during his morning briefing with reporters, "but he's resting pretty comfortably. He's doing OK.
"I talked to him. It happened to him when he was 15 years old. He was hit in the face; more the teeth, he said. Just going through it, and having been through it myself [Counsell sustained a broken jaw with a pitch in 1998], there's nothing fun to talk about with it. There's nothing good about it. He got through yesterday, which is the first of it.
"[Sunday] was a really scary day for Rymer. I think he's more comfortable today. You're not sure when it happens. He's got doubt in his head for sure, understandably."
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts expressed concern for Liriano on Monday morning and said he planned to reach out. The two were together in San Diego, where Roberts was a coach and Liriano an outfield prospect. Dodgers right-hander Matt West, whose wayward fastball struck Liriano in the eighth inning of Sunday's game, also expressed his well-wishes.
The timetable for his rehabilitation remains open-ended.
"No one has mentioned any timetable to me," general manager David Stearns said. "I don't know whether we're talking about a month, three months, the season. I really don't. But it's serious enough that he's going to begin the season on the disabled list, and we'll take it from there."
Counsell has intimate knowledge of the challenges ahead for Liriano. In August 1998, a CJ Nitkowski pitch struck Counsell in the face, breaking his jaw. Counsell healed during the offseason and enjoyed a long Major League career.
"It's an individual question," Counsell said. "I think every injury has physical and mental hurdles. He'll have a physical, time hurdle that will take a while.
"One of my thoughts is that these helmets that [the Cardinals' Jason] Heyward and [the Marlins' Giancarlo] Stanton wear, we should make them more available to all players. I really believe that. Why not? They don't have any trouble seeing the baseball. I don't think Jason Heyward has had any problem seeing the baseball wearing that helmet."
Heyward's helmet has an extended ear flap that covers his jaw. He was hit in the face in 2013. Likewise, Stanton has worn a modified helmet since sustaining serious facial injuries when he was hit by a Mike Fiers pitch at Miller Park in 2014.
"It feels like, and I might be wrong, we're seeing guys get hit in the head more often," Counsell said. "We had three players last year; the Stanton thing [in 2014]. We offer players a small solution, something that could help them if they choose to. We could put it out there a little more and make it more available. Little Leaguers don't wear them. Nobody wears them. When you know that little flap can stop that from happening, why not?"
That was a matter for another day, however. On Monday, Counsell and his players were simply pleased to see Liriano's smile.
"It was great to see him," Counsell said, "but he's got a long road, still."