Atlanta Braves infielder Charlie Culberson suffered a serious scare on Saturday night when he was hit in the face with a 90 mph fastball.
With the game tied 1-1, Culberson, 30, was brought in as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals, and had laid down his bat to bunt when he was nailed in the right cheek on the first pitch from Fernando Rodney.
The Braves said in a statement on Sunday that Culberson suffered “multiple facial fractures,” but had been cleared to travel to Atlanta, and would meet with team doctors to “determine the next steps in his treatment.”
Culberson immediately fell to the ground after he was hit and clutched his face in pain. After being tended to by trainers, he was able to walk to a cart, which wheeled him off the field as he held a bloody towel to his face. He offered a thumbs up to the crowd to let them know he was OK.
Braves manager Brian Snitker discussed the incident after the game in a press conference on Saturday night, and said that while Culberson was still getting checked out, he was alert and aware.
“He was good when he went to the hospital. I mean, he was alert and all that kind of stuff and we just don’t know the extent of what’s going on yet. We’re just praying for him and his family and…that’s scary,” Snitker said, later growing emotional as he discussed Culberson’s character. “You got one of your teammates that everybody loves in this room. So we’re just praying for Charlie.”
Snitker said Sunday that he had received a call from Nationals manager Dave Martinez offering apologies on behalf of Rodney.
“[Rodney] really wanted to make sure that Charlie got the message that he was really sorry and that he hopes he’s okay,” Snitker said, according to the Washington Post.
The outlet also reported that Rodney spoke about the pitch after the game, and said it was never his intention to hurt Culberson.
“I want to say sorry. I don’t want that to happen to nobody,” he said. “Sometimes … a lot of things happen in this game.”
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After Culberson was taken off the field, controversy broke out over whether the pitch should be counted as a strike, since he’d had his bat out to bunt and had offered at the pitch.
The umpires did indeed count the pitch as a strike, and so the Braves brought another batter in to take Culberson’s 0-1 count instead of sending him to first base as a pinch-runner, as batters who are hit by pitches do.
“I’m not going to get into that, but that’s just…,” a visibly agitated Snitker said at his press conference. “I’m sitting there looking at this guy, pool of blood on the ground, like, come on.”
Home plate umpire Tim Timmons later said that while his team was “sympathetic” to Culberson, “rules are the rules,” according to the Post.
The Braves went on to win 10-1, clinching a spot in the postseason.