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Koufax's scare rattles Dodgers Spring Training

Iconic pitcher, 78, feeling OK after being hit in the head with a batted ball

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As if to ease the fears of an entire organization, Sandy Koufax walked into the Dodgers clubhouse after practice Friday.

With sandwich in hand, he was upright, smiling and looking, well, like Sandy Koufax.

"I'm fine," Koufax said, about an hour after being struck on the forehead by an Andre Ethier line drive during batting practice.

After going for a precautionary CT scan to rule out internal bleeding, Koufax returned to Camelback Ranch and assured reporters that he was healthy. He said this was the first time he had been hit on the head by a ball. He didn't need stitches on a forehead cut.

"It's more of a bruise," he said. "It feels more like a whiplash than anything. It's not even sore to the touch. I'm a little surprised."

It looked serious enough when it happened, and the audible thud when the ball struck head was sickening.

Koufax was standing next to the bullpen down the left-field line at the time, Clayton Kershaw having just finished warming up to pitch batting practice.

Koufax was watching prospect Ross Stripling warm up and not looking at the batter when Ethier sprayed a liner that struck the iconic left-hander on the left side of his forehead, knocking off his Dodgers cap.

Was Ethier worried?

"Wouldn't you be?" he said. "Not just because of who he is, but anybody who gets hit. It's scary. I've seen it happen."

Koufax tried to laugh it off, saying he still had coffee cup in hand. He didn't leave his feet, was conscious throughout and talking.

He told pitching coach Rick Honeycutt he was OK but also said he was a little "wobbly," and was taken in a cart by assistant trainer Nancy Patterson Flynn to the nearby Minor League clubhouse to be examined. He returned by cart to the Major League clubhouse about 10 minutes later.

"It didn't look good," said Kershaw, who was sitting in the bullpen, about 30 feet from Koufax. "Glad he walked off. He seemed OK."

Honeycutt was still shaken several hours later.

"Everybody was like, 'Oh my gosh,'" Honeycutt said. "You don't want anybody hit, but Sandy? I mean, you don't want that to happen to anybody, but especially him, he's out here to support and help us and be around. I just got a sick feeling from the sound of it.

"Sandy had worked with Stripling the other day and was intrigued by what he was seeing as he warmed up and wasn't looking [at the hitter]. I wish he had been in the bullpen with me. He never saw the ball. By the time somebody said something, I heard this thud, and it wasn't a glancing shot."

Manager Don Mattingly was watching from behind the batting cage. Koufax was standing on the warning track in foul ground leaning against a pole at the corner of the bullpen, but his side facing the field was unprotected.

"It wasn't a blooper," said Mattingly. "It was a semi-liner. It was sliced, so it wasn't totally clean with backspin, but he hit it OK. If it was a right-hander, it would have been hooking and hit harder. He said tomorrow he'll wear a helmet.

"It was scary. He sounds OK; he seems fine. I'm sure they'll want to check it out to be sure."

The 78-year-old Koufax is in camp to work with pitchers in his role as special advisor to the chairman.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for
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