CHICAGO — Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar got an extra shudder last week when he saw a tape of Oakland pitcher Brandon McCarthy getting hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Angels infielder Erick Aybar.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Hochevar flashed back to 2004, when he was hit in the head by a batted ball in batting practice while a sophomore at Tennessee.
“I didn’t have surgery,” he recalled, “but I fractured my temporal plate. I was out for eight weeks. I was in neurological ICU (intensive care unit) for about a week. I still don’t remember anything from a week before I got hit.”
McCarthy’s injury was far worse. He required two hours of surgery last Wednesday to relieve pressure on his brain after the ball hit the right side of his head. He experienced an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture.
There are positive signs. McCarthy engaged in some light-hearted quips Saturday on Twitter. He is recovering at a hospital in the San Francisco area and, if all goes well, could be transferred soon to a transitional care unit.
Hochevar said he felt like “a different person” for about two months.
“Your brain is bruised,” he said. “It took me a while to get over it. I didn’t think it did at the time, but everyone around me could tell. Ashley (his wife) could tell. She told me, ‘You were weird for four months.’ I’m just thankful that it wasn’t worse than it was.”
Hochevar admitted it was “tough” to get back on the mound.
“It was like I forgot what it was like to be up there,” he said. “What was hard was just getting into a pitching mind frame. I was just kind of loopy for a while. I wasn’t all there.
“It was tough to focus, and it was tough to stay focused. I played with Team USA that summer, and the biggest thing was my response. I wasn’t quick. If you asked me a question, it took me a while to respond. It was a while before I felt like myself again.”
Bueno serving suspension
Lefty reliever Francisley Bueno accepted and began serving a two-game suspension prior to Sunday’s series finale. The ban stemmed from a 2008 incident while Bueno was pitching for Atlanta.
The suspension was reduced from three games on appeal. Bueno will also miss Tuesday’s series opener at Minnesota.
Teams must play short-handed during suspensions, but that’s a moot point in this case because rules permit rosters to expand from 25 to 40 players on Sept. 1. The Royals, who had 28 players on Saturday, are limited to 39 while Bueno serves his suspension.
Bueno, 31, drew the suspension and a fine for throwing a pitch near the head of Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano while pitching for Atlanta on Aug. 13, 2008. Bueno was optioned back to the minors by the Braves before an appeal could be heard.
The punishment remained in abeyance until Bueno returned to the big leagues, which didn’t happen until this season. He is 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings over 10 appearances.
Outfielder Mitch Maier went five for five with a homer and four RBIs in helping Class AAA Omaha return to the Pacific Coast League championship series with a 16-7 victory over Albuquerque.
The Storm Chasers were forced to a decisive fifth game in the series against Albuquerque, a Dodgers affiliate, after blowing a seven-run lead in Saturday’s 12-10 loss. Albuquerque scored nine runs in the seventh inning.
Omaha built a 10-0 lead Sunday through 3½ innings before surviving another Albuquerque rally. Outfielder Wil Myers went three for five with a homer and three RBIs.
The Storm Chasers are seeking to repeat as PCL champions. They open the best-of-five finals Tuesday at Reno, a Diamondbacks affiliate. The series continues Wednesday at Reno before shifting Friday to Omaha.
The fourth and fifth games, if necessary, are Saturday and Sunday at Omaha.
It was five years ago Monday — Sept. 10, 2007 — that David DeJesus set a Royals record when hit by a pitch for the 19th time in a season in a 4-2 loss to Minnesota at Kauffman Stadium.
The record occurred in the fifth inning when DeJesus was hit by Twins starter Boof Bonser. The previous club record was 18 by Mike Macfarlane in 1994 and Angel Berroa in 2003.
DeJesus finished the season with 23 HBPs, which remains the franchise record.
• Salvy Perez extended his hitting streak to a career-best 14 games by going two for five. It is also the longest streak this season by a Royal.
• The Royals clinched the season series against the White Sox. Sunday’s victory gave them a 10-5 edge with three games remaining.
• Right fielder Jeff Francoeur had his seventh career multi-assist game. He boosted his season total to 18 assists, which leads the majors.
• Left fielder Alex Gordon recorded his 12th assist by throwing out Alejandro De Aza at the plate in the first inning.
• The Royals kept the White Sox from hitting a home run after surrendering three in each of the two previous games.