Giants center fielder Kevin Pillar is undergoing the concussion protocol after taking a 97-mph fastball on the chin in the first inning of Friday’s contest with San Diego. He said he has had no concussion symptoms and was cleared to start Saturday against the Padres.
Dinelson Lamet, who has hit four batters in just 51-1/3 innings this season, threw a pitch up and in that ricocheted off Pillar’s left shoulder and onto his jaw. But Pillar passed examination by Giants training staff and stayed in the game for the full nine innings in San Francisco’s 8-3 victory.
Pillar said that although getting beaned in the face is a scary situation, it felt like any other hit-by-pitch to him. He hasn’t felt any dizziness or ringing in his ears and was able to answer the trainer’s questions immediately after getting hit.
Next to dodging serious injury, his other major concern was overriding fear so that he could get back on the horse:
“For me, the biggest challenge was being able to step back in the box against the same guy. I was able to do that and stay in there and I didn’t feel like it affected me at all. As scary as it is, it’s something that happens very infrequently in the game. … It’s my first time in my career, and I’ve got close to 3000 at-bats.”
By the time he got home, he said it felt a little sorer as the adrenaline wore off, but he said he slept fine and wasn’t worried:
“I woke up this morning just sore like you would be any other place in your body if you got hit. Just sore directly in that area that got impacted and the opposite side of my jaw a little bit, but nothing I’m too concerned about. I’ve been hit in other body parts and it feels very similar.”
He will continue to be monitored by Giants medical staff in the coming days and Saturday he was being fitted for a new batting helmet that would extend protection down the side of his face.
He said when players first started wearing helmets in that style he was opposed to it because he saw it as more of a fad that guys were doing to look different or ‘cool,’ but in recent years his view has changed:
“I don’t think it’s something where you look at this guy and think that he’s a sissy or he’s scared or anything like that. You’re seeing it so often in the game now that guys just want to protect their face and feel more comfortable. With velocity being so high, the decision-making has to be so much quicker than ever before.”
He said he had already planned to start using such a helmet next spring training to see if it was something he could use without feeling encumbered, but this incident has sped up that timeline. Now he said he will start practicing in the cage with it to see how it feels and go from there:
“In hindsight, if I had it on it’s something that would have protected me, but it’s like everything else in this game, and especially when it comes to protective wear, I never really wore ankle or shin guards or elbow guards before I got hit. Then [you get hit] once and you wear ‘em.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Saturday night’s rehab start with the River Cats could be Johnny Cueto‘s last. Cueto, who underwent Tommy John surgery last August, is expected to throw 75 pitches and though the Giants originally approximated a September 8 return, Bochy said it’s possible he could make his first big league start in over a year sooner than that:
“We’ll get with Johnny, Curt [Young] and I will get together with Farhan and we’ll talk about the rotation and see how [Cueto] gets through this start and see what we think is the best way to go.”
The skipper said the Giants don’t plan to carry a six-man rotation upon Cueto’s return. Tyler Beede, Logan Webb or Dereck Rodríguez are among the candidates to get bounced from the rotation to make way.
Pablo Sandoval (right elbow) took swings in the cage Friday and Bochy said the Panda felt good. He will ramp up work in the cage Saturday and if all goes well he could be available to pinch-hit Sunday. He is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery September 4, but the Giants hope to give him a shot to make a handful of final plate appearances before he has to go under the knife and embark on the long arduous recovery process.
Bochy said Jeff Samardzija will pitch in Beede’s spot Sunday so he can stay on his every-five-day schedule. Beede is scheduled to pitch Monday instead.
The Giants will call up four or five players from the minor leagues when rosters expand Sunday according to Bochy, though he did not make any announcement as to whom they would promote.