MiLB pitcher discharged after liner to head

June 9th, 2021
George Mason product Tyler Zombro was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017.Frank Franklin II/AP

ST. PETERSBURG -- Triple-A Durham pitcher was discharged from Duke University Hospital on Wednesday afternoon, less than a week after being hit in the head with a line drive in the eighth inning of Thursday night’s game. He was taken off the field on a stretcher and transported to the hospital in an ambulance.

The Rays announced on Wednesday night that Zombro, 26, and his family will remain in Durham, N.C., to continue his outpatient occupational and speech therapy.

“The Rays extend their gratitude to the doctors, nurses and staff caring for Tyler, and continue to be overwhelmed by the support for his recovery,” the club said in a statement.

Zombro’s mother, Fonda Morris, told the Daily News-Record newspaper that he underwent “major brain surgery” but has been alert and answering questions. Rays manager Kevin Cash said Saturday, after hearing from Durham athletic trainers Scott Thurston and Kris Russell, that Zombro was able to get out of his hospital bed and walk around with some assistance.

On Sunday, Cash relayed the news from head athletic trainer Joe Benge that Zombro could be moved out of the ICU within the next day. On Monday, Zombro was out of the ICU and still in stable condition, Morris told the Daily News-Record.

Cash talked to Durham manager Brady Williams on Thursday night after hearing about the frightening incident involving Zombro during Tampa Bay’s flight from New York to Texas. Durham’s game against Norfolk at Durham Bulls Athletic Park was called in the eighth inning. On Friday, the Bulls announced that they had postponed that night's scheduled game with the approval of MLB “in light of the events of Thursday evening’s contest.” Durham returned to the field on Saturday.

“It was a scary moment. Tyler, he's one of our brothers. Everybody in pro ball that plays, does what we do, is one of our brothers,” Rays reliever Ryan Thompson said Tuesday afternoon. “Baseball's a dangerous sport, it really is, when it comes down to it. When stuff like that happens, you never know what the outcome could be -- especially in the moment -- whether or not it's somebody's life or whether or not it's something that could be lifelong. It's scary.

“We all joined -- it seemed like thousands of people, thousands and thousands of people -- in prayer. And prayer works. From the get-go, he was in good hands with God. I think as far as the update, I think every single thing that's happened so far has been as good as we could have hoped for. I know he's talking, he's walking around a little bit. Thank the Lord for that.”

On a 1-2 pitch, Norfolk catcher Brett Cumberland hit a comebacker off the side of Zombro's head. The 26-year-old right-hander fell to the ground and was quickly surrounded by concerned teammates, coaches and the team trainer.

Medical personnel were called in, and Zombro's wife, Moriah, who was in the ballpark, was escorted onto the field. Zombro was put onto a stretcher and rushed off the field to a waiting ambulance beyond the outfield fence. Zombro's teammates huddled in concern while Cumberland looked on from first base. The umpires suspended the game with Norfolk leading Durham, 12-4, but it was later deemed official.

“That was one of the most traumatic things I've ever experienced in my life,” said Rays reliever Ryan Sherriff, who was in Durham before being recalled on Friday. “Very chilling. I spent my offseason with Zombro. We worked out together. And it really hit home to me after everything that I saw. I wish him the best. I wish his family the best. Just hope he is doing great.”

Zombro has been in the Rays' organization since signing as an undrafted free agent out of George Mason University in July 2017. He has an 11-4 record with a 2.79 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 177 1/3 innings in the Minor Leagues. Tampa Bay's baseball operations department named the right-hander its Minor League Reliever of the Year in 2019, and he spent this past spring in big league camp for the second straight year

In addition to his pitching career, Zombro -- who studied pre-physical therapy with a concentration in leadership and a minor in sport management and kinesiology -- has committed himself to helping younger athletes get the most out of their ability. He previously served as the lead trainer at R&D Baseball in Washington, D.C., where he consulted with college teams and helped other athletes train remotely, and he is now the director of performance at Tread Athletics.