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HoJo fractures cheek, no surgery needed

Rangers' Triple-A hitting coach, former Mets star struck in side of face
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Howard Johnson, the Rangers' hitting coach at Triple-A Round Rock, is recovering from several fractures in his cheekbone after being hit in the face by a line drive during Saturday's game against the Indians.

The team said in a statement on Sunday that it does not appear he will require surgery, and that his eye function is fine. He will rest at home in Arizona for a week before being re-evaluated.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Howard Johnson, the Rangers' hitting coach at Triple-A Round Rock, is recovering from several fractures in his cheekbone after being hit in the face by a line drive during Saturday's game against the Indians.

The team said in a statement on Sunday that it does not appear he will require surgery, and that his eye function is fine. He will rest at home in Arizona for a week before being re-evaluated.

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Johnson was watching the game from the Rangers' first-base dugout when Indians utility man Erik Gonzalez, batting in the fourth inning, smashed a line drive foul that hit Johnson in the left side of the face in a scary moment for the Rangers.

"Absolutely," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "I just happened to look down that way and saw it pretty clearly. The ball got him flush on the cheek. Obviously, our prayers are with him. HoJo is a tremendous guy. It's terrible when you see that whether it's inside the dugout, on the field or in the stands."

Play was stopped as Johnson received medical attention before being placed on a stretcher and then driven off the field in a cart. Initial reports from the hospital were positive, according to Banister.

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"It was ugly," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "He was awake and responded to all the medical answers, that's a good sign. I don't think he was able to walk, but hopefully nothing serious. He is part of the team, part of the family. When that happens, you are always going to get concerned. It was kind of scary."

Gonzalez was shaken by the play. Indians manager Terry Francona and third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh talked to him while Johnson was being treated, but he still ended up striking out.

"When I hit the ball, I was looking at the dugout and I saw him, he was facing the field -- the other way," Gonzalez said. "I felt a little frustrated in that moment right there. I [finished] the at-bat, but my mind wasn't in the moment at home plate, you know? I was thinking too much about him, what happened. I'm so sorry for that."

Johnson, a former infielder who played for the 1984 Tigers and 1986 Mets when they won the World Series, is in his third season with the Rangers. He was a Single-A manager for two years prior to becoming Round Rock's hitting coach.

"You talk about your heart in your throat," Francona said. "That was just awful, awful. It takes a while to keep playing the game. You're human. Man, that was scary."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

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