SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP)Texas Rangers outfielder Willie Calhoun had surgery to repair his broken jaw Monday, a day after being hit in the face by a fastball.
”Hey guys, just want to thank everyone for your prayers,” Calhoun tweeted Monday night. ”I just got out of surgery and I’m doing well. Can’t wait to be back hitting homers soon.”
Surgeons were prepared to wire Calhoun’s jaw shut but instead installed a plate to steady the fracture, which should make for a quicker recovery. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Calhoun would be released from the hospital this week, possibly Tuesday, and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, at which time Texas may get a better idea of his timetable for a return.
Daniels said doctors had not yet determined if Calhoun had a concussion. While Calhoun is almost certain to open the season on the injured list, Daniels characterized the outcome of the surgery as relatively positive.
”Certainly, in my opinion it is,” he said.
The 25-year-old Calhoun set career highs with 21 homers, a .269 average and an .848 OPS in 83 games for Texas last season.
The left-handed hitter was struck by a first-inning fastball from Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias – a former minor league teammate and friend of Calhoun’s. Drafted by the Dodgers in 2015, Calhoun was traded to Texas in July 2017 in a package for Yu Darvish.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward said Urias texted Calhoun to express concern.
The 25-year-old Calhoun was airlifted to a hospital, and Woodward left Texas’ game to meet him there. He was joined by Daniels, as well as Calhoun’s family, which had recently arrived in Arizona and was watching Calhoun play for the first time this spring.
Woodward said he got emotional on the field and quickly decided to leave the game.
”I didn’t want to be there,” he said. ”I didn’t want to be at that game at all.”
Calhoun has previously worn a face shield on his batting helmet but stopped at some point last season. He was not wearing one Sunday. Woodward said he would strongly recommend to his players that they wear the guards going forward.
Calhoun hit 21 home runs in 309 at-bats for Texas last year. He had totaled three homers in 133 at-bats in his previous two seasons with the Rangers.
Rangers slugger Joey Gallo was on deck at the time and didn’t initially realize Calhoun had been struck in the jaw. Then he saw Calhoun grabbing at his bloody face. He said he quickly ran to Calhoun to let him know he was there and that help was on the way.
”Tough to watch, tough to see,” said outfielder Nick Solak, who replaced Calhoun in the game.
Solak, a natural second baseman who has been hoping to make the team as an outfielder, could now be in line to be the everyday left fielder. He said Monday that wasn’t a primary concern.
”It’s tough walking in here and not seeing Willie’s smiling face,” Solak said. ”We’re just all thinking about him today.”
Rangers right-hander Luke Farrell had his jaw broken by a line drive during a spring training game last March. Farrell said he wasn’t at Sunday’s game but received a message letting him know about Calhoun’s injury. He found a replay, saw that Calhoun was hit in a similar spot and said he couldn’t watch more.
Farrell said his jaw was wired shut for four weeks and it took four months for the bone to fuse completely. He also suffered severe, ongoing concussion symptoms.
”I was careful not to relive it too much, but at the same time, you can’t help but feel empathy for what he’s going through,” Farrell said. ”Sadly, you know all too well some of the things he’s going through.”
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