Seattle Mariners

‘It all happened so fast.’ Mariners infielder Lopes recovering after fastball struck his helmet

Seattle Mariners trainer Rob Nodine, left, talks with second baseman Tim Lopes in the dugout during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Thursday, July 25, 2019, in Seattle. Lopes, who was hit by a pitch during the fourth inning, but stayed in the game, was replaced in the seventh inning by Dylan Moore. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle Mariners trainer Rob Nodine, left, talks with second baseman Tim Lopes in the dugout during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Thursday, July 25, 2019, in Seattle. Lopes, who was hit by a pitch during the fourth inning, but stayed in the game, was replaced in the seventh inning by Dylan Moore. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) AP

What happened in the fourth inning Thursday night certainly isn’t what Tim Lopes envisioned. Making his first major league starter, after being promoted by the Seattle Mariners a day earlier, Lopes stepped to the plate at T-Mobile Park for just the second time.

He saw four pitches from Detroit’s Drew VerHagen, and was looking to extend a Mariners rally that started an inning earlier, before VerHagen’s fifth offering — a 91-mph fastball — struck the left side of his helmet. Lopes staggered away from the box, and knelt down on the grass as he was evaluated.

“It all happened so fast,” Lopes said. “You just see something come at you that you’re not really used to, and it just caught me, and I just couldn’t get out of the way.”

Lopes, who spoke for the first time since the incident Saturday morning, said the ball struck both the left ear flap of his helmet and the area near his jaw.

“I think it caught most of the ear flap, which I’m very thankful for,” Lopes said. “I think it could have been a lot worse. I’m just happy that it wasn’t a lot worse.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais and trainer Rob Nodine cleared Lopes to take his base, and he eventually scored his second run of the game on a J.P. Crawford triple, but was replaced in the seventh and placed into concussion protocol following the game.

“He got smoked pretty good,” Servais said. “When he came out at the end, he said his jaw was stiffened up. He was a little sore. We’ve got to keep a close eye on that one.”

Lopes was put on the seven-day concussion list Friday morning and spoke with doctors, but said he’s started feeling better as the weekend has gone on. He has not resumed any baseball activity yet, but Servais anticipates Lopes will start exercising again after Monday’s off day.

“Today’s the first day where I’ve come into the clubhouse and felt pretty much normal with a lot more energy,” Lopes said. “I definitely feel a lot better. ... I think after the seven days I should be ready to go. I’m pretty confident in that, and the training staff is also confident in that. I think that’s definitely the goal.”

This is the first concussion Lopes has had in his eight-season professional baseball career, and he certainly wasn’t expecting it in the second game of his young MLB career, but he’s trying to take the injury in stride,and make a speedy return.

“I was really excited to be out there with my teammates,and experience being a major league baseball player,” Lopes said. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little boy, so that’s the part I definitely think about more, is that my dream came true these last couple days. ... That’s really what I’m focusing on. I’m just so thankful for the opportunity.”

SANTANA RETURNS

Domingo Santana returned to Seattle’s lineup as a designated hitter Saturday, four games removed from exiting Tuesday night with soreness in his right elbow. Santana said he took about 50 swings during batting practice Friday, which did not aggravate the elbow, and he felt well enough to play.

He led the Mariners in runs scored (56), hits (107) and RBIs (65) through Friday, and at one point led the majors in the latter category, before his injury. His 19 doubles ranked tied for first for Seattle, and his 19 homers and 40 walks each ranked third.

“Domingo felt good yesterday taking BP,” Servais said. “There were no issues there, so ... we’ll try to keep him in the DH spot for a while here. That will force (Daniel Vogelbach) out to first base a little bit more, but we’ll mix and match.

“It doesn’t mean Domingo is going to play every day, but we want to get his bat in there — certainly against left-handed pitching. It gives us a little bit more balance.”

Santana has not resumed throwing yet — when he was shagging fly balls in the outfield during BP Friday afternoon, he was flinging them back toward the bucket with his glove — and there is no timeline for when he might return to Seattle’s depleted outfield.

The Mariners could rotate Tim Beckham, Ryan Court — who made the first start of his nine-season professional baseball career in right field Saturday — Kris Negron and new acquisition Keon Broxton in left and right field with Santana, Mitch Haniger and Braden Bishop out.

ROSTER MOVES

During the early innings of Saturday’s game against Detroit, the Mariners announced they claimed outfielder Keon Broxton off waivers from Baltimore. Broxton was designated for assignment by the Orioles on Sunday.

The 29-year-old has played for both the New York Mets (34 games) and Baltimore (34) this season. He has a season slash line of .184/.244/.289 with four doubles, four homers, 11 RBIs, eight stolen bases, 12 walks and 71 strikeouts.

Connor Sadzeck (elbow) was transferred to the 60-day injured list to make room for Broxton on the 40-man roster.

INJURY UPDATES

Hunter Strickland (lat strain) is “close” to being activated, Servais said pregame Saturday. “It could be on the road trip,” Servais said. “We’ll have to wait and see. Certainly there’s a lot going on right now behind the scenes at this time of year. We’ve got to create a roster move to get him on there. ... I’m not sure of the timing of it, but he’s ready to go.”

Dee Gordon (quad strain) could return from the 10-day IL sooner than expected, Servais said. He was originally projected out “ a few weeks.” Gordon hasn’t resumed baseball activity, but is projected to when Seattle departs for Texas.

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.
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