Smoak's 'veteran voice' helps Bo (concussion)

Rookie shortstop still experiencing symptoms, content to take time to recover

September 21st, 2019

NEW YORK -- On Saturday morning in New York, shed some light on the concussion that he sustained after being hit on the helmet by a pitch earlier in the week and the process that has immediately followed.

The Blue Jays’ rookie shortstop is still experiencing symptoms and working through concussion protocol with no clear timetable for return. The past two days, though, since Bichette took a 92.9-mph pitch off the beak of his helmet against the Orioles, have been a learning experience that started with a wise veteran voice.

Bichette showed zero symptoms initially and remained in that game, but things started to slow down as he ran the bases and played the field. Then, after striking out on four pitches in his next at-bat, Justin Smoak cornered Bichette in the dugout and asked him if he was OK.

Having never experienced a diagnosed head injury, Bichette recognized that he wasn’t feeling right, but there was a hesitation that he was overthinking or worrying his way into feeling the symptoms. Smoak made it clear to the 21-year-old that, while some things can be played through, this wasn’t one. Bichette obliged, and he immediately went to the team’s training staff, who had been monitoring him throughout.

"I'm thankful that Smoak came up and said that to me, especially as the veteran voice,” Bichette said. “Telling me to go say something, that kind of gave me the OK, I guess."

When Bichette walked over to head athletic trainer Nikki Huffman, she immediately put Bichette through another set of tests. As can be the case with concussions, Bichette’s symptoms didn’t show immediately, but they came soon after.

“Right when it happened, I didn’t really feel anything. I felt completely fine,” Bichette said. “I ran from first to third right after, and then I made a play in the field. I think that with everything I did, a little bit more, it felt a little off. Then, when I went out to my at-bat, I felt really weird in the box.”

Huffman put Bichette through a lengthy initial evaluation to establish his baselines, and he will continue to be tested every day. Huffman noted that Bichette is improving, and he feels the same, but there are still plenty of hurdles to clear before he can return to the field.

Once Bichette is completely without symptoms, then he can begin to push himself with physical testing. At that point, the training staff will get Bichette on a stationary bike to increase his heart rate, then test him again. Running, sprinting and baseball activities will follow, but that conversation is on hold until Bichette is cleared.

Young and eager, Bichette wants to be on the field. He’s learned that this isn’t something he can push, though, and he seems content to let the process take whatever time is needed.

“I’d love to play again, but at the same time, playing again definitely isn’t [as] important to making sure I’m all the way healed up,” Bichette said. “Obviously, I think the smartest thing is to take as much time as I can with it. Obviously, if I’m 100 percent by everybody’s estimation by the time the season’s over, I’d love to play.”