TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels right-hander Matthew Shoemaker reached a key personal milestone Wednesday, facing live hitters for the first time since being struck on the head by a line drive in September.Shoemaker, who opted to throw without a screen, faced five batters during live batting practice on the back fields
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels right-hander Matthew Shoemaker reached a key personal milestone Wednesday, facing live hitters for the first time since being struck on the head by a line drive in September.
Shoemaker, who opted to throw without a screen, faced five batters during live batting practice on the back fields near Tempe Diablo Stadium and said afterward that the session was "awesome."
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"It was exciting," Shoemaker said. "I can't say much else about it. Exciting and a lot of fun. … It is a big deal, but I'm glad it didn't feel like a big deal in the sense of executing pitches."
Shoemaker's 2016 season came to a frightening end when he was hit on the right side of his head by a 105-mph comebacker off the bat of the Mariners' Kyle Seager during a Sept. 4 game at Safeco Field. Shoemaker suffered a fractured skull and had to undergo emergency brain surgery to stop the bleeding caused by the impact.
Shoemaker, 30, still bears an arching scar on the side of his head, but it's one of the few lasting vestiges of the injury. He arrived to Spring Training feeling normal and said he was looking forward to facing hitters again.
"The best emotion to describe it is I got more excited because I knew that I was going to be facing hitters that were going to be swinging for the first time in a little while," Shoemaker said. "Definitely a little more excitement."
The first hitter Shoemaker faced was outfielder Shane Robinson, who hit a ground ball to shortstop that rolled close to the mound.
"I was like, 'Oh, that's pretty close,'" Shoemaker said. "No jumping, no flinching."
After Shoemaker finished throwing, Robinson was one of the first teammates to go up to him and offer a handshake. Robinson said he avoided bringing up the injury and instead provided feedback on Shoemaker's pitches.
"It's something that you always are hesitant to bring up because there are some things that can happen to people and possibly affect their psyche and things like that," Robinson said. "I try not to bring back memories of things but also show that you care; it's kind of a fine line that you dance around. When I first saw him, I just told him how good he looked and [I was] glad to see him. That's kind of where I left it."
Shoemaker also took the opportunity to continue to experiment with protective head gear. Prior to taking the mound, he slipped a small carbon fiber head guard from Safer Sports Technologies (SST) inside his cap to shield the right side of his skull.
"It's very low-key," Shoemaker said. "It's good protection and it's comfortable."
Shoemaker is still trying out two other designs and will test them throughout Spring Training before deciding whether to use one during the regular season.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.