Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010
Updated 5:41 PM
By Patrick Mooney
MIAMI -- This was a drowsy Sunday afternoon, 88 degrees at first pitch and a sea of empty orange seats at a football stadium just off the Florida Turnpike.
And then the jagged edge of a broken maple bat impaled Tyler Colvin just above his heart, a freak accident that left the Cubs outfielder in stable condition, and could have been much worse if not for a matter of inches.
Colvin was transported to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he will remain for the next few days to undergo a battery of tests for pneumothorax. He was hooked up to a chest tube to help keep his lung from collapsing.
The 25-year-old will not leave the hospital until he receives a normal chest X-ray. His rookie season is now over. There was minimal external bleeding, and the depth of the wound was not immediately clear, according to a Cubs spokesman.
"It was scary," Marlins catcher Mike Rivera said. "It looked like when a person gets stabbed."
Colvin was running down the third-base line during the second inning of a 13-3 victory over the Florida Marlins as Welington Castillo's double sailed toward Sun Life Stadium's left-field wall.
The bat splintered and punctured Colvin's chest cavity, which allowed air into his chest wall and potentially into his lungs. He didn't labor to breathe -- it just looked that way to at least one teammate who immediately knew something was wrong.
Jeff Samardzija saw a dazed Colvin sort of smile on his way back to the dugout.
"It was wild," Samardzija said. "I thought he was fine. I thought we were just kind of joking around, but I just saw a little something on his shirt. I said, 'Hey, you should probably get inside.'"
Castillo, who played with Colvin in the minors, didn't know what happened and only saw him grab his chest.
"I feel really bad about it and I hope he's getting better," Castillo said. "It wasn't my fault. I didn't hit him on purpose. That's baseball."
Increasingly maple bats are a part of baseball and there's strong anecdotal evidence to suggest how easily they break apart, and how dangerous they can be. Two years ago with the Colorado Rockies, Jeff Baker watched one slice home-plate umpire Brian O'Nora and vowed to only use ash bats.
"That's the danger of a maple bat and thank goodness that (Colvin's) ok," Baker said. "I saw an umpire get slashed on the neck in Kansas City and it's just not worth it to me. I don't want that on my conscience if something happens."
It came as a shock on a getaway day that began with the Cubs in a very good mood. Mike Quade (16-7) was informed that he was off to the best start by a Cubs manager through 23 games since Charlie Grimm (18-5) in 1932.
The veterans knew they were getting the day off and were able to enjoy South Florida's nightlife and sleep in the next morning. Sunday's lineup featured seven players who spent most of this season at Triple-A Iowa with Ryne Sandberg, one of several candidates trying to angle for Quade's job.
"The hell with the 'B' team every one of these guys has earned the right," Quade said before the game. "These are opportunities to be part of the 'A' team next year or whatever the hell you want to call it."
Auditioning for the 2011 rotation, Samardzija threw six innings to earn the win. Castillo hit the first home run of his big-league career. Brad Snyder notched his first hit in the majors, a two-run single up the middle. The Cubs (68-81) got the three-game sweep they were looking for -- and completed the first 8-1 road trip in club history -- but it came at a price.
"It really puts things in perspective -- things are flying around 90-plus mph," Samardzija said. "It's just the nature of the beast. (You) get used to it after awhile and things like this kind of open your eyes back up."
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.