Eduardo Nunez has been playing professional baseball for 10 years, but his sprint to first base in the second inning of the Yankees' 8-7, 10-inning win over the Twins on Monday night was unlike any he had ever experienced.
Nunez lined an 0-and-2 cutter on the outside corner off the face of Yankees starter Bryan Mitchell, sending him to the ground and bloodying him. Nunez said he had never hit a comebacker that resulted in such an injury.
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First came shock. Then came fright. "As soon as I see him on the mound, bleeding," the former Yankee said, "I was so scared."
Finally, as Twins first-base coach Butch Davis came over to console him, there was sadness. "Anything like that, I feel awful," Nunez said. "I was very sad for him. I hope everything is OK with him. I hope I see him soon again."
Mitchell suffered a small nasal fracture but eventually was able to walk off the field. The Yankees were just grateful it wasn't worse. "Oh, it was scary," Mark Teixeira said. "You just count your blessings there that it wasn't worse. As soon as we all ran over there, he said he was OK. But again, we just crossed our fingers it wasn't worse."
Added Chase Headley: "His back was turned to me. I was hoping it hit his glove. When you realize it hit him in the face, it's a terrible feeling. You don't know the severity of it, you don't know where it got him. It's scary when it happens to anybody. When it happens to a teammate, it hits closer to home."
From the Twins' dugout, Paul Molitor endured a similar spectrum of emotions. "It's just a moment where your heart sinks," he said. "Personally, I just bowed and said a little prayer for him to make sure he was going to be OK. I was grateful that he was able to walk off the field . . . I get goose bumps talking about it because you're playing the game and then you see someone go through something like that. So try to keep it in perspective."
After the game, a reporter asked Molitor, a Hall of Famer who played from 1978-98 and is in his first season as manager of the Twins, if he thought there should be more precautions taken by Major League Baseball to prevent similar incidents.
"There's been attempts," Molitor said. "I know they've talked about trying to find that protective cap for a pitcher. They haven't really come up with anything that looks really practical as of yet, but the face is pretty much something that's going to be unprotected no matter what you do."
Nunez also was involved in the game's final play. With the bases loaded and none out in the 10th, he bobbled Headley's grounder to short and inexplicably got the out at first as the winning run scored.