Brett Gardner lay writhing on the infield dirt Wednesday, clutching the base he had just crawled to after colliding with the Mack Truck disguised as a baseball player in 5-10, 220-pound Rickie Weeks Jr.
By Thursday, he was counting his blessings.
“I’m happy with the way I feel today,” Gardner said about 24 hours after the bone-rattling collision that knocked him out of the game. “I’m a little banged up, a little sore. I’m pleased it’s not any worse and thankful I escaped serious injury. It was a pretty good collision and he’s not really the softest guy to collide with. I didn’t pick the right guy to run into.”
Gardner wasn’t in Thursday night’s starting lineup, but his recovery was viewed as the best-case scenario. “He is definitely better than we really expected,” Joe Girardi said. “I probably could have started him today, but I think it’s probably in his best interest to have a day and see where we are tomorrow.”
Gardner, who confirmed that he passed the concussion protocol, took batting practice Thursday and said he felt good enough to pinch hit, if needed. Not bad, considering that at first look, the collision had “disabled list’’ written all over it. (Weeks, who hurt his shoulder, also was down for a while and had to leave the game.) Gardner injured his chin and neck and got the breath knocked out of him, he said.
“I’m lucky to have come away from that like I did. It obviously could have been something more serious, but I feel pretty good,” said Gardner, who added that he watched a replay of the collision a few times. “I really wasn’t sure exactly how things went down because I really wasn’t — I kind of had my head down most of the time running down the line, so I didn’t really see how the whole play transpired. I feel like I’m fortunate to have gotten away from it like I did. He’s a pretty big guy. He’s pretty solid. He didn’t move too much when I hit him.”
With runners at the corners and one out, Gardner hit a comebacker and thought he was trying to beat out a double play. Xavier Cedeno turned toward second before making a poor throw to Weeks, who strayed into the basepath to grab it. By the time Gardner realized what was happening, it was too late to slow down or change course.
“It’s just scary,” he said. “I knew that the ball was loose, so I knew that I needed to try to get back to the base. But when I hit him, his shoulder and his arm kind of went into my chest, my stomach, so I wasn’t — I don’t want to say I wasn’t thinking too clearly, but I just had the breath knocked out of me. It was kind of scary for a second, but all good.”