Line Drive Hits Red Sox Pitcher in Face

B O S T O N, Sept. 9, 2000 -- Red Sox pitcher Bryce Florie has serious eye damage and underwent surgery today after being struck in the face by a line drive that bloodied him a night earlier.

“Prognosis for reasonable vision is guarded,” team physician Dr. Bill Morgan said.

The right eyeball of the 30-year-old reliever was not ruptured, and his retina was damaged but not detached.

The operation at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary was done to release pressure on the eye and assess the damage.

“He seems to be in good spirits,” hospital spokeswoman Mary Leach said.

Leach said Florie was in stable condition but she could not say if he was able to see from the injured eye.

“He’s had extensive blunt injury to the eye. It’s too soon to tell the extent,” Leach said. “There was some bleeding in the eye.”

Florie has a fractured cheekbone and orbital socket, the bone that surrounds the eye. An operation to correct those problems will be done after the swelling subsides.

Three Fractures

Florie was struck by a line drive by Ryan Thompson in the ninth inning of New York’s 4-0 win Friday night. Florie went down, then sat up after about a minute, blood streaming down his face.

Morgan said Florie sustained retinal damage that will be assessed over the next 24 to 72 hours to determine if surgery is required to repair the retina.

The doctor said Florie has three fractures around the eye socket that will require surgery and will be monitored the next three to five days.

“Unless there is further hemorrhaging, in which case doctors can wait up to two weeks depending on the status of the eye,” he said.

Horrific Scene

Before today’s game, Red Sox manager Jimy Williams and trainer Jim Rowe spoke in Williams’ office. On a couch in the clubhouse, pitcher Rolando Arrojo stared at a front-page newspaper picture showing Florie holding a towel to his bloodied face as he sat on the ground next to Rowe.

The scene left players and coaches, youngsters and veterans, at a loss to remember such a scary sight.

New York manager Joe Torre recalled the 1957 game in which Yankees infielder Gil McDougald hit a liner off the cheekbone of Cleveland’s Herb Score, the AL Rookie of the Year in 1955. Many believe the injury shortened Score’s career.

Boston pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, who first reached the majors in 1976 as a pitcher with Montreal, couldn’t find anything comparable.

“Over the years I’ve seen guys get hit, but not like that,” he said.

Another Red Sox player, outfielder Tony Conigliaro, suffered serious damage to his left eye when he was hit in the head by a pitch from California’s Jack Hamilton in 1967 at Fenway Park. Conigliaro missed all of the 1968 season, returned to the Red Sox in 1969 and was traded to California in 1970.

Four Teams in Six Years

Florie pitched for San Diego, Milwaukee and Detroit in a major league career that began in 1994. He was traded to Boston on July 31, 1999. He was 2-0 with a 4.80 ERA for the Red Sox last year and this season is 0-4 with a 4.56 ERA in 29 games, all in relief.

Perhaps his most memorable outing for Boston came Aug. 14, 1999 when Williams started him in place of Pedro Martinez, who arrived later than normal but before the game. Florie went 4 2-3 innings, allowing one run on four hits as Boston beat Seattle 13-2. Martinez pitched the last four innings.

On Friday, Florie replaced Rheal Cormier with Yankees at first and third and one out in the ninth. Clay Bellinger then grounded into a forceout at home, Jose Vizcaino walked and Derek Jeter hit a two-run single.

Thompson, who entered the game in the eighth as a pinch runner for Paul O’Neill, then hit a liner with such force that Florie had no time block the ball with his glove. The ball rolled to third baseman Lou Merloni, who threw out Thompson to end the inning.

Florie fell face down and kicked his outstretched legs up and down. He soon sat up, then stood and was taken off the field on a cart.