Cardinals’ second baseman Kolten Wong survived a scary moment on Saturday night when a 97 MPH fastball came hurtling at his face. The pitch, lobbed by the Reds’ Luis Castillo, caught Wong on the mouth guard extension of his batting helmet and sent it flying behind the plate.
Shaken, Wong fell to the ground following the hit by pitch, but was quickly able to get to his feet and walk around the infield before taking first base. Were it not for the unique design of his batting helmet, however, he believes he would have lost a few teeth — or worse — to the pitch.
“Right where the ear and the protector connects, it hit me right there,” the infielder told reporters following the Cardinals’ 4-1 win. “If I don’t have that, I’m spitting out teeth.”
That’s certainly been the fate for other major leaguers during similarly brutal hits, including the Mariners’ Mitch Haniger and Diamondbacks’ Chris Iannetta. Facial fractures, concussions and varying contusions are all possibilities when a ball comes at your face at a high speed, and Wong explained that he decided to don a more protective helmet in Spring Training after watching other players sustain serious head injuries.
At least on Saturday, his precautionary efforts paid off. The added mouth guard isn’t a perfect solution for fending off wayward pitches, nor is it anywhere close to being implemented on a league-wide level. Perhaps, just as Robbie Ray‘s recent concussion inspired several pitchers to adopt protective cap inserts, Wong’s near-miss will serve as a timely reminder that some of the serious damage incurred by a hit by pitch can be avoided (or, at the very least, scaled back) in the future.
CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has been working out daily with free agent starter Jake Arrieta in Austin. The right-hander, who won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, still remains teamless with spring training less than a month away. Williams has been trying to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies.
Williams said of Arrieta, “He loves it here [Austin]. He has told me he likes working with young guys. I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.”
On GM Matt Klentak’s hunt for pitching help, new manager Gabe Kapler said, “The pursuit is very real. I have a lot of trust that we’ll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we’re better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”
Arrieta, who turns 32 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and a 163/55 K/BB ratio in 168 1/3 innings last season with the Cubs. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers have been linked to Arrieta this month.
Presently, the Phillies’ starting rotation figures to include Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez along with some combination of Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter, and Jake Thompson. Arrieta would certainly amount to a big upgrade in the starting rotation and could make the Phillies a more attractive landing spot for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, who become free agents after the 2018 campaign. The Phillies are expected to be in the mix for either or both players.