Giancarlo Stanton isn’t superhuman.
But after his teammates were certain the slugger for the Miami Marlins had escaped serious injury after being struck in the face with a fastball in Milwaukee on Thursday, they light-heartedly imagined he was.
“You half expected him to be lying there, and green stuff coming out of him, his face reforms, and he stands up and says, ‘Go ahead. Throw another one,’ ” said backup outfielder Reed Johnson. “From what we’ve seen this season, that’s almost what you expect. He wants to come back. He wants to show people he’s possibly not human.”
It is all but certain Stanton will not return this season.
Stanton suffered multiple facial fractures, a severe laceration, and broken bits of teeth that became embedded in his cheek. But the Marlins are confident he will return the same player he was before Thursday’s horrific incident – one of the most feared sluggers in baseball.
Stanton was discharged from a Milwaukee hospital Friday and returned to South Florida, where he was examined by a battery of doctors, including plastic and oral surgeons.
The Marlins are pulling out all the stops to make sure Stanton receives top care. Immediately after Stanton was struck by a Mike Fiers fastball and fell to the ground near home plate, lying in a puddle of his own blood, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria was on the phone lining up the top specialists.
Loria called Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who is from Milwaukee, to set Stanton up with the city’s best plastic surgeon. Loria also made arrangements for Stanton and his father to return to Miami on a private jet, have them picked up on the tarmac, and taken to local medical specialists.
The early reports are encouraging. The Marlins announced that Stanton probably won’t require surgery.
And Stanton was recovered enough Friday to send out messages thanking everyone for their concern.
“The amount of support I have received from you guys has been tremendous & Heartfelt,” Stanton wrote in a tweet. “I’m much better today & deeply appreciate your prayers!”
It was a chilling scene Thursday night at Miller Park when Fiers, who attended Deerfield High School and Nova Southeastern University, threw an 88-mile-per-hour pitch that sailed high and inside. Before Stanton had time to get out of the way, the ball struck him square on the side of his face, just below his left eye.
The ball struck with such force that Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos, Stanton’s friend and roommate, could hear the thud all the way out in the Miami bullpen.
“The sound, it just made me sick,” Ramos said.
Ramos looked around and saw players from both teams praying.
Blood began pouring out of Stanton’s mouth to the point that a pool of it formed near his head in the batter’s box. After Stanton was placed on a stretcher and taken away in an ambulance, the grounds crew scraped away the blood before play resumed.
Fiers was almost in tears when he spoke later with reporters, apologizing profusely while also maintaining his stance he did not throw deliberately at Stanton.
“It’s very tough,” an emotional and distraught Fiers told Brewers reporters after the game. “I’ve never in my life experienced anything like that. It was very hard for me to take in everything at the moment and come back and throw another pitch.
“I just want to send my thoughts and prayers to Giancarlo Stanton. I would never think of throwing at somebody like that. Never in my life has something like that happened. I’m very sad that it hit him. I’m very sorry to their teammates, their fans, his family. It’s just tough.”
After Stanton was taken away and replaced by Johnson, Fiers hit him with the very next pitch, again unintentionally. Angry, Marlins players stormed out of the dugout in what turned into a benches-clearing scene.
Though third baseman Casey McGehee and manager Mike Redmond were ejected, no punches were thrown and the game continued.
Dr. John Martin, a Miami-based oculo-plastic surgeon, said Stanton was fortunate the ball did not hit his orbital bones.
“He’s lucky. He could have lost his vision if that had been the case,” Martin said. “The orbital bone is there to protect the eye, but with a ball going 88 mph, it could have crushed the bones completely and you could lose your vision completely or lose your eye completely.”
IMAGES OF CONIGLIARO
Players have had their careers altered after being struck in the face by a pitch. Red Sox outfielder Tony Conigliaro was hit in the face by a pitch on Aug. 18, 1967, and it caused a lifetime of eyesight problems that led to an extremely shortened career.
Former Astros shortstop Dickie Thon, who had made the All-Star team in 1983, was struck by a Mike Torrez fastball in his left eye on April 8, 1984, and was never quite the same on the field. Though Thon returned in 1985 and remained in the the big leagues until 1993, he suffered from a lack of depth perception that prevented him from returning to his previous level.
Braves outfielder Jason Heyward broke his jaw in August 2013 when he was struck by a 90 mph fastball from Jonathon Niese. He returned a month later and finished the season, but now wears a protective flap on his batting helmet.
McGehee said the hope now is for Stanton to return the same player he was before.
“You just hope there aren’t any lingering effects he has to deal with, and that it doesn’t have any long-term side effects,” McGehee said. “I don’t think there would be. But you just hope this doesn’t hinder him with what he’s able to do.”
Said Redmond: “He’s going to be fine. It really becomes more of a mental thing now, when he recovers, how he feels when he steps in the box. I wish we had more time in the season that, if this is the end, that he doesn’t have to go out like that, that he can get in there and play a few more games.”
After Friday night’s game against the Phillies, the Marlins will have 16 regular-season games remaining.
Stanton leads the National League in home runs (37), slugging percentage (.555), OPS (.950), total bases (299), extra-base hits (99), RBI (105), walks (94), at-bats per HR (14.5) and was on pace to become the first player to lead the NL in homers, RBI and slugging percentage since Dante Bichette in 1995.
Stanton was a leading candidate to win the National League Most Valuable Player award.
“This year a big goal for him was to play every game, and he was on track to do that,” Redmond said. “I think that meant more to him than the home runs or anything else.”
Asked if Stanton’s injury would have any bearing on the contract extension the Marlins intend to offer the two-time All-Star in the offseason, Marlins president David Samson said: “That’s the farthest thing from our mind right now.”
Miami Herald sportswriter Barry Jackson contributed to this report.