Braves players react to Marlins’ Stanton beaning

ARLINGTON, Texas – By Friday afternoon, most Braves had seen the gruesome replays of Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton getting hit in the face Thursday by an 88-mph fastball from Brewers pitcher Mike Fiers, which left Stanton with multiple facial fractures, lacerations and other injuries.

The bloody incident was eerily similar to one last season when the Braves’ Jason Heyward was hit in the face by a 90-mph fastball from Mets left-hander Jon Niese, which broke Heyward’s jaw and required surgery and a one-month stint on the disabled list before he returned in the last week of the season.

“I texted (Stanton). He said he’s doing OK,” said Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, a fellow native of the Los Angeles area. “ I’m just glad he’s OK, not seriously, seriously hurt…. It’s too bad. It’s unfortunate. Just glad he’s OK.”

Unlike Heyward, who turned his face away at the last moment and had the pitch hit him square in the side of the cheek, Stanton actually turned his face into the pitch as he swung at the high-and-in fastball. It hit him directly in the face.

“Probably thought it was a curveball,” Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said. “Sometimes that happens. Sometimes you’ve got to stay in on balls, and if your judgment’s wrong….”

Freeman said, “It got him clean, right in the face. Had to have (thought it was a breaking ball). That’s the only reason I would think he’d try to think to swing at it.”

Braves veteran catcher Gerald Laird said: “Terrible. You never want to see anything like that. That’s why you pitch inside, you’ve got to pitch down below. You get into scary territory when you pitch inside and try to go up-and-in.”

Through a team spokesman, Heyward declined to comment on the situation, saying he didn’t know Stanton’s prognosis and that there’s were two different cases and he didn’t want to draw comparisons.

Johnson said other players should consider using the type of protective guard attachment that Heyward’s had on his helmet since returning from his beaning. It is attached to the right ear flap and covers the right side of Heyward’s face where the left-handed hitter was struck by Niese’s pitch.

“I think everybody should wear what J-Hey wears,” Johnson said. “Why not? It doesn’t bother J-Hey.”

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he thought the number of recent incidents of players being hit in the head by pitches was caused by couple of primary factors.

“I think the combination of pitchers not being to command the ball inside, and hitters not being able to get out of the way,” he said. “You hear some of the Andre Dawsons and guys who played in that era, they got thrown at all the time, so they knew how to get out of the way. The way that Stanton looked like he took that pitch, he either didn’t see it coming or thought it was going to break or something. Even when Jason got hit, he turned his face away. (Stanton) looked like he lost (the ball) or was looking for it away and it came in.

“But I think it’s a combination of both things. I think pitchers don’t command the ball in.”

Laird said he was certain that Fiers wasn’t trying to hit Stanton, but said pitchers need to be more careful when throwing inside.

“I know he didn’t do it on purpose; obviously you see how bad he felt,” Laird said. “But when you try to make a statement pitch, even though you don’t do it on purpose, when you go above the shoulders that’s when you’re asking for trouble. Everyone’s all, ‘It’s my plate; I’m tough.’ It’s not about that. It’s about not hurting somebody. You can pitch inside and move guys off the plate. You don’t have to go up (around head).”

No one who saw the incident or video of it will soon forget the site of Stanton, considered an MVP frontrunner, writhing on the ground in pain, bleeding heavily from his mouth, then strapped to a gurney and carted off the field.

“You never want to see that,” Laird said. “Baseball doesn’t want to see that. Because he’s a guy who could be the poster boy for baseball the next 10 years, keep this thing going, be the next superstar. You never want to see a guy get hit like that.”