Liner off head does little to knock Fister off his game
Struck in second inning, Tigers starter says he has 'no damage'
SAN FRANCISCO -- Remarkably, Doug Fister's reaction after taking a comebacker off the right side of his head on Thursday was so subtle it can probably be construed as a non-reaction.
With two outs in the second inning, the crowd watching Game 2 of the World Series at AT&T Park let out a collective panicky groan as it watched the Giants' Gregor Blanco line a laser off the 6-foot-8 pitcher's head. But even as the ball ricocheted off Fister's head and landed in front of Austin Jackson in shallow center field, the pitcher appeared unscathed and unfazed.
His left knee briefly touched the ground as his leg briefly buckled on impact, but seconds later, Fister was on his feet, watching Jackson field the ball as if nothing had happened.
His manager and athletic trainers, of course, didn't take the situation quite as lightly. With Jim Leyland intently listening, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand asked a series of questions, a standard procedure when someone takes a ball to the noggin.
"What game we're in, where are we at," Fister said, recalling what he referred to as the "typical concussion questions." Fister told them there were two outs in the inning, there were a couple of runners on and that they were playing in Game 2 of the World Series.
Having passed that test, Fister then told Leyland and Rand, "I'm fine."
Fister was so nonchalant about the whole thing, it was hard for Leyland not to take him at his word.
"He just was pretty blase about it, really, and just said that he was fine, and he went on," Leyland said. "But you always worry about something like that after it happens, maybe you're all right, and then you come sit in the dugout and all of a sudden you've got a bad headache or something and that puts a different light on things."
As for any lingering effects, Fister said simply, "I have a little bump, but no damage." He realized what was happening in the second immediately following impact, and he knew right away he was going to have to convince Leyland he was fine and didn't need to be removed from the game.
When it became apparent Fister was clear-headed and focused, it was an easy call to leave him in. After issuing a walk to Brandon Crawford, the right-hander retired the next 12 batters but took the hard-luck loss in the Tigers' 2-0 loss.
"It was a scary moment, obviously, but he was fine," Leyland said. "You know, it's a little scary for a manager because you never know if there's a later reaction with something like that."
Said Fister: "It was just a matter of a mindset. You're not going to take me out of the game. I want to play the game and I want to play it right. It's one of those things if something happens you can't play, can't perform, then OK. But they checked me out, made sure everything was OK, and go back to work."
The outcome could have been much worse, and while concussions from comebackers aren't an everyday occurrence in baseball, they can happen. Oakland pitcher Brandon McCarthy was hit in the head in largely the same fashion as Fister with a much more frightening outcome -- he had emergency brain surgery after it was discovered he had a fractured skull, a brain contusion and was bleeding within the head. All from a line drive off the bat of the Angels' Erick Aybar.
Fister was well-schooled on McCarthy's situation and reiterated repeatedly that he had no such similar issues.
"Coming off the mound, the focus was, 'Where'd the ball go?'" Fister said. "I didn't see stars, I didn't have any headaches, so I knew I was going to be OK."
His teammates, watching Fister's reaction, responded similarly.
"I didn't know it happened at first," outfielder Delmon Young said. "Then I found out he got hit in the head, but he looked OK. I was glad he was all right and then I just felt bad for the baseball."
First baseman Prince Fielder said he also didn't panic.
"I didn't really have [a reaction] because he seemed OK," he said. "If he shook it off, I should be able to, too."
Catastrophe averted, Fister remained in the game for four more innings and pitched well enough to win. He matched Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner practically inning for inning and ended up with an outstanding pitching line of six innings, four hits and one run.
"I thought he did a tremendous job, and he just wasn't quite as good as Bumgarner, but he was pretty darned good," Leyland said. "If you give us that performance as a starter all the time throughout a series, you feel pretty good about it."