ST. PETERSBURG It wasn’t until Desmond Jennings learned that J.A. Happ was going to be OK that the Tampa Bay Rays center fielder was finally able to relax.
“Then you could breathe a little bit,” Jennings said. “You still don’t know until you talk to him, until you see him, face to face.”
That would happen later in the day when Jennings met Happ outside the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field.
The Toronto Blue Jay pitcher had a cut on his left ear and a fracture behind the ear, the result of being struck there Tuesday night by a line drive off Jennings’ bat. His right knee was stiff, the result of the fall he took on the mound after being hit by the baseball.
Happ, who was released from Bayfront Medical Center just before noon, said he was fortunate to come away from the horrific incident with minor injuries.
“It’s not serious or threatening,” Happ said during a press conference Wednesday at the Trop.
“He’s blessed is what he is. Thank the Lord, man,” Rays second baseman Ryan Roberts said.
Added Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia, “To have him walk out of the hospital, after seeing that ball completely square him up, it’s definitely a blessing.”
Happ said he was coherent on the mound and was talking to his teammates and the trainers and medical staff that rushed to his side as he lay motionless.
That’s about all Happ remembers.
“I just remember just releasing the ball,” he said. “I don't remember seeing it. Just the immediate loud ringing in my ear and just pressure in my ear, and I was on the ground. That was kind of it.”
Tropicana Field fell silent as fans and both teams looked on. Jennings, who raced to third base as the ball ricocheted into right field, stood on the bag with his hands on his head.
“It’s something you don’t want to see or happen to anybody,” Jennings said.
As relieved as he was to learn Happ’s injuries weren’t serious, Jennings was even more relieved when he met with Happ after batting practice.
“He told me everything was OK, he told me he was doing better,” Jennings said. “I saw him. He was walking fine. He was talking to me like normal, like he could get out there and go (Wednesday).”
Said Happ: “Obviously something like that, it's never intentional. I let him know that I knew that and I did appreciate him coming over. It's a scary thing on his end, too, I'm sure, so I did appreciate that.”
Happ said his knee injury might dictate when he returns to the mound. And when he does return, Happ said he doesn’t know what to expect.
“I think you've just got to get back out there, try to forget about it,” he said. “I won't know until I'm up there, but I don't think it's significant.”