LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was at the edge of the dugout, watching the ninth inning unfold in a 6-2 Tigers loss. He saw the line drive off John Hicks' bat headed back toward Blue Jays reliever TJ House."He turned his head, so it hit him here," Ausmus
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was at the edge of the dugout, watching the ninth inning unfold in a 6-2 Tigers loss. He saw the line drive off John Hicks' bat headed back toward Blue Jays reliever TJ House.
"He turned his head, so it hit him here," Ausmus said, his hand on the back of his head. "But it hit him hard and square. Line drive, hit him here, went up in the air, probably went 30 feet up. The catcher caught it."
What followed was as scary a scene as any the longtime catcher has witnessed in all his years in baseball.
"It's up there," Ausmus said. "There was quite a bit of blood. He was bleeding quite a bit, but he was conscious and he was talking to his trainers.
"His face was in his glove. He had blood on his face. He had blood in his glove."
House fell to his stomach and remained down next to the mound for more than 15 minutes, and he appeared to be moving his legs while being tended to by the Blue Jays' medical staff. He was then placed onto a stretcher, from which he gave a thumbs-up to the crowd as he was loaded into an ambulance to be transported to Watson Clinic at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center.
After the game, Toronto manager John Gibbons said the 27-year-old House was talking and had feeling in all of his extremities. House thanked fans for their concern and well wishes in Twitter messages posted about three hours after the game ended, saying he would make a full recovery.
Buck Farmer was in the Tigers' dugout, having just pitched in the top of the ninth.
"I watched it come off Hicks' bat," Farmer said. "It got [House] in the back of the head. You saw it coming back at him, and he had the thought to turn his head instead of getting hit in the face. Neither scenarios are good."
Most Tigers players only know House from his time in the Indians' organization, including parts of the past three years in Cleveland. But as House lay on the ground, his face in his glove, they were shaken. Hicks was seemingly frozen along the first-base line, watching the horrific scene unfold, and he was not available for comment after the game. Several Tigers were at the dugout railing, quietly saying prayers.
Ausmus then spoke with Gibbons, Tigers general manager Al Avila and the umpiring crew about ending the game.
"Everyone was kind of in agreement at that point," Ausmus said. "You have two outs left in an exhibition game, not to mention you're standing there for however long, 20 minutes. Obviously, regular-season game, different story."
The nature of Spring Training didn't reduce the emotional impact of what they saw, though -- a reminder of the dangers of the game.
"I think they realize the vulnerability that sometimes there is in the game of baseball, with the velocities coming off the bat and the velocities out of the pitcher's hand," Ausmus said. "Anything around the head area could be debilitating or even deadly. Hopefully the tests all come back with good news for TJ, and he's fine in a couple days."
"It makes you think, obviously, but you can't take it out to the mound with you," said Farmer. "If you take it out to the mound with you, you start throwing balls all over the grid. It's one of those things you have to put in the back of your mind and just do your job."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.