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Mets' Kevin Pillar has broken nose from beaning, will have surgery

Mets' Kevin Pillar talks to teammates in the

Mets' Kevin Pillar talks to teammates in the dugout before the team's baseball game against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in Atlanta. Credit: AP/John Bazemore

ATLANTA — His face swollen, his breath labored, his nose crooked and scraped, Kevin Pillar sat in front of a camera on Tuesday and told the world he felt "definitely lucky."

Lucky that a 95-mph fastball from Braves reliever Jacob Webb on Monday hit him in the nose and not in the eye or the forehead or the mouth. Lucky that his multiple facial fractures — the term the Mets used in putting him on the injured list — pretty much just meant a badly broken nose. Lucky that after surgery, which can happen when the swelling goes down, he can start doing baseball stuff in 10 to 14 days.

"I feel pretty damn normal right now, aside from my face looking the way it does and not being able to breathe too well out of my nose," Pillar said during a 20-minute video news conference. "But I feel great. I got no headache, I got no symptoms. I feel pretty fortunate to be sitting here."

That was something better than the worse-case scenario for the Mets, who have 13 players on the injured list. Of the five outfielders on their Opening Day roster, four are hurt. Only leftfielder Dominic Smith, a converted first baseman, remains.

To help cover that area, the Mets acquired journeyman Cameron Maybin from the Cubs for cash considerations — $1, a source said. They plan to call him up "soon," according to a person familiar with their intentions, so his assignment to Triple-A Syracuse might just be an on-paper move. Maybin, 34, is a veteran of 14 major-league seasons with nine teams. He was hitting .103 in Triple-A.

For Pillar, Tuesday brought clarity after a scary situation Monday. When he was hit by the pitch, his initial reaction was to go to first base. Then he saw the blood.

"It was a weird out-of-body experience," he said. "I was bleeding a lot and I knew that this wasn’t normal, that this was more than just getting hit in the face, that there’s a lot of blood and that there’s no way to get to first base."

Upon retreating to the clubhouse, he saw an in-house doctor, who told him his nose was "deformed and more than likely broken," Pillar said. X-rays and a CT scan confirmed that. In the morning, he met with a facial specialist, who briefed him on what comes next, including surgery.

"Once it’s set and put back into place, it doesn’t need to fully heal before I can resume activity," Pillar said. "But it will allow me to get back on the field sooner than later."

 

At the ballpark, Pillar behaved as his regular, upbeat self, telling manager Luis Rojas: "If I could see a little better, we’d be fighting about me being in the lineup today."

Among the hundreds of people who reached out to Pillar were several people from Atlanta’s organization, including Webb and hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, Pillar’s hitting coach in Toronto in 2014 who was hit in the face by a pitch twice as a player.

Webb and Pillar exchanged texts Monday night and met in the hallway connecting their teams’ clubhouses Tuesday afternoon.

"Shook hands, hugged it out," Pillar said. "He reiterated that he felt terrible about what happened. I tried to reiterate that it's part of the game, I know you didn’t mean to do it."

Webb added: "I’m just glad he’s all right. That was my main concern."

Infielder Wilfredo Tovar took Pillar’s spot on the 26-man roster. Catcher Deivy Grullon was designated for assignment.

"My face will heal," Pillar said, "but my heart’s broken right now because this team is hurting right now."

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