MILWAUKEE -- Keon Broxton wasn't with the Brewers when Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton fell in a heap at home plate at Miller Park in 2015, but he saw it on television. When then-Brewers outfielder Rymer Liriano was hit in the face last spring at Maryvale Baseball Park, Broxton watched it
MILWAUKEE -- Keon Broxton wasn't with the Brewers when Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton fell in a heap at home plate at Miller Park in 2015, but he saw it on television. When then-Brewers outfielder Rymer Liriano was hit in the face last spring at Maryvale Baseball Park, Broxton watched it happen in person.
So the second-year outfielder was thankful to have only a small nasal fracture and a few stitches following a similar scare in Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Rockies. And Broxton was doubly thankful that he did not follow through on an urge to switch batting helmets.
"That C-flap, man," Broxton said, referring to the curved facial guard attached to his helmet, "that thing just saved my life."
Broxton was able to walk off the field under his own power after he was hit by a 92.6-mph fastball from Rockies rookie Antonio Senzatela in the second inning. The flap on his helmet saved Broxton from being struck directly in his left eye, and he is not expected to need time on the disabled list.
Instead, manager Craig Counsell described Broxton's status as day to day.
"We saw something really bad last spring," said Counsell, referring to the injuries that cost Liriano an entire season. "I give our equipment manager Jason Shawger a lot of credit, he's gone out there and encouraged guys to wear it as well.
"Broxton is grateful he had it on today, no question about it. He avoided something incredibly serious."
Broxton went further than that, putting out the word to fellow Major Leaguers that if they have not tried a helmet with facial protection, they should.
"The crazy thing about it is, I was thinking about taking it off a couple days ago, too, and then this happens," Broxton said. "I'm never taking that thing off. Once the ball hit my head I think I was doing a 360 on the ground or something like that, and as I was falling I was like, 'Thank God for the C-flap.'
"It just felt like I got punched by Mike Tyson. But other than that I feel good. I'm blessed."
Senzatela, 22, was making his Major League debut.
"I felt bad when I hit him in the face," Senzatela said. "I said, 'Bad pitch. I don't want that.' But it's the game. … I already talked to him. He told me he's OK. He's fine."
Kirk Nieuwenhuis entered the game to replace Broxton and accounted for the Brewers' only run with a seventh-inning solo home run. If Broxton remains sidelined a few days, the Brewers' options for center field include Nieuwenhuis or utility man Hernan Perez. The Brewers also will activate waiver claim Nick Franklin for Friday's series opener against the Cubs.
Broxton is bidding to build on a breakthrough finish to 2016 that was cut short by an injury. After making a significant adjustment with the position of his hands, Broxton hit .294/.399/.538 over his final 45 games last season, stealing 16 bases, making at least one game-saving catch, and leaping to the top of the Brewers' batting order. His run was cut short on Sept. 16, when Broxton fractured his right wrist crashing into the ivy-covered brick wall at Wrigley Field. Thursday's injury could have been even worse.
"I'm grateful I kept that [helmet] on, and I encourage every player to use it," Broxton said. "Even if you're uncomfortable with it, guys, it saved me. I know it'll help out a lot of other players as well."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.