FORT MYERS — Standing in the middle of a cramped locker room Sunday at jetBlue Park, Rays pitcher Matt Moore opened his mouth and tilted his head down so those standing around him could get a better look at the stitches that began in the front of his grotesquely swollen lip and disappeared inside his mouth.
“I can't believe it really just came off his bat and hit me in the face and this is what happened,” Moore said nearly 90 minutes after he was struck on the left side of his mouth by a line drive off the bat of Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
Moore said he was “extremely fortunate” to escape with nothing more than a fat lip and soreness below his right ear, the result of his jaw absorbing the impact. X-Rays were negative and he passed a concussion test.
“As far as they can tell, I'm good,” Moore said. “I told them I don't feel like I'm going to fall over. I just have a fat lip.”
Moore said he doesn't think the injury will prevent him from making his first start of the season. Rays manager Joe Maddon said they'll learn more after Moore arrives today at Charlotte Sports Park.
“Right now there's no dizziness, I understand, no headaches. That's a good thing,” Maddon said. “Let's just wait until (today) and see what's concluded.”
The play occurred with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning of what became a 9-2 victory for the Rays. Moore somehow deflected the ball with his bare hand, though he didn't remember doing that. He did pick up the ball and throw to first base for the final out of the inning.
Moore walked off the field, covering his bloody lip with a towel.
“It happened really fast,” he said. “It's not like I tracked it the whole way in and I saw it hit my mouth. It was like BOOM-BOOM. BOOM, there's the ball, get it. Probably very fortunate this happened on a Sunday, the Lord's day, and maybe not another day. I definitely feel fortunate to just have it hit my mouth and not anywhere potentially more dangerous.”
Less than a week after Cincinnati pitcher Aroldis Chapman was struck in the face by a line drive and less than a year after Toronto pitcher J.A. Happ and Rays pitcher Alex Cobb were both struck on the sides of their heads with line drives, the fans at the stadium witnessed the sight of a pitcher being hit above the neck by a batted ball.
“It always is (scary), and I'm sure there's going to be more talk about (protective) hats, but that wouldn't have protected (Moore),” Maddon said. “It's a necessary evil within the game. It happens, it's awful, but you got to keep playing and move on.”
Moore said he will undergo additional X-rays today on his jaw to see if there is a small fracture or if there is damage to the roots of his teeth. None of Moore's teeth were cracked or loosened by the hit.
“They're pretty big,” he said. “They can stand up for themselves.”
Maddon said Sunday's incident wasn't as frightening as when Cobb was struck by a line drive last June 15. For one, Moore didn't fall to the mound clutching his head. Moore finished the play. But Moore couldn't recall what just happened when he reached the dugout, and that's when he came out of the game and was sent for tests.
“He's got a busted lip, still able to get the out, that showed some guts,” Rays left fielder Matt Joyce said.
“I'm not surprised,” first baseman Sean Rodriguez said. “Matty's a gamer. He stayed with it. He took it like a champ. He wanted to get the out.”
Moore said batters get hit by pitches all the time. He said he's been hit in various parts of his body before with comebackers and will again. He also said he hasn't been thinking about Chapman, even though it's fresh on everyone's mind.
“I wouldn't say I went out there scared,” Moore said. “It's kind of something you try to go out there fearless and don't really think,'Can this happen? Could it happen this pitch?' The more and more you see it, the more and more you're obviously going to think about it.
“It's like every time you get on the freeway, you don't think you're going to get into a car accident, but being in a car accident will shake you up pretty good. It's unfortunate but we are standing 60 feet away from the hitter. Sometimes it comes back just as hard as it went in.”