CLEVELAND | Mitch Maier didn’t look much better Thursday afternoon as he sat on a couch in the Royals’ clubhouse the day after suffering three broken bones around his right cheek when hit by a pitch.
The right side of Maier’s face was swollen into a distorted shape. His right eye required an effort to open. His nose continued to bleed steadily.
Yet he remained jocularly upbeat.
“I feel all right,” Maier insisted. “I don’t have any pain really. I’ve just got a bloody nose and, obviously, the swelling. Beyond that, I feel fine pain-wise.”
The medication, no doubt, gets some credit for that.
Plans call for Maier to be reevaluated once he returns to Kansas City, but the initial examination is that none of the fractures displaced bones. So no plastic surgery is expected.
Further, Maier’s vision appears unimpaired.
“That was the big thing,” he said. “I can see out of my right eye when I open it. It’s just easier right now to keep it closed.”
The Royals placed Maier, 26, on the disabled list before Thursday’s series finale against the Indians at Progressive Field. It’s hard to imagine him playing again this season.
“I’ve got to get re-evaluated,” Maier said, “but the way they made it sound with the fractures is that nothing is out of place. When the swelling goes does, they think I can just let it heal and go from there.”
Maier suffered the injury in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s 8-5 loss to the Indians when he squared to bunt with no outs and runners on first and second. He fouled off a first attempt before a cut fastball by Cleveland starter Zach Jackson didn’t cut.
It stayed high and tight and struck Maier flush on the cheek.
“I just remember it riding up and in,” he said. “I tried to pull back and get out of the way. I saw the ball, and it was about a foot away, and I closed my eye and said, `Oh-oh.’ Then it hit me.”
Maier went down but popped up almost immediately into a sitting position and applied a towel to his nose, which was bleeding heavily. His quick reaction led many to suspect the ball hit the ear flap of his helmet before striking his cheek.
“It hit me pretty good,” Maier said. “Had I not been squared to bunt, I think I could have protected myself a little better. Since I was squared, I was more exposed. It’s just one of those things that happened.”
Maier’s wife, Karrie, had returned earlier in the day to the couple’s home near Detroit after spending the two previous days in Cleveland. She drove back to Cleveland after learning of the incident with plans to accompany her husband to Kansas City.
“She’s all right,” Maier said. “She’d be worse if I was in pain. I really haven’t been in a whole lot of pain. It’s been more a case that I can’t see out of my right eye, my nose has been constantly bleeding since it happened.
“Beyond that, I’ve been feeling all right.”
Third baseman Alex Gordon returned to the ranks of the walking wounded after leaving Thursday’s game for a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning because of tightness in his upper right quadriceps muscle.
Gordon felt a twinge in his quad while making a charging play on Jamey Carroll’s grounder in the third inning. Gordon aggravated the injury while fielding Franklin Gutierrez’s grounder for the final out in the fourth.
“Hopefully, it’s not much,” Gordon said. “We’ll see (today).”
Gordon missed the series opener Tuesday because of tightness in his lower back.
Outfielder Joey Gathright replaced Maier on the roster. He arrived just prior to the game after spending nine games at Class AAA Omaha to a rehab assignment while recovering from a bone bruise on his right shoulder.
Gathright had just five hits in 33 at-bats for the O-Royals. He is batting .251 in 82 big-league games with a club-leading 21 steals.
The Royals remain cagey on their plans regarding starting pitchers for Saturday and Sunday against the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. They continue to list both spots as TBA _ to be announced.
“We’ve got some ideas,” manager Trey Hillman said, “but not anything we’re ready to divulge yet.”
The Royals are down two starters after sending Kyle Davies to the minors and Luke Hochevar suffering a bone bruise and a strained muscle in his rib cage.
Davies is the logical choice for Saturday but can only be recalled from Omaha to replace a player put on the disabled list. Otherwise optioned players must remain in the minors for at least 10 days.
The Royals have a DL candidate in reliever Ron Mahay, who has made just one appearance since Aug. 6 because of an injured foot. Mahay’s time could be backdated to Aug. 17.
The choice for Sunday _ Hochevar’s slot _ is likely to be Brandon Duckworth or just-signed Kip Wells. Summoning Duckworth would require the club to clear space on its 25-man and 40-man rosters.
Reliever Yasuhiko Yabuta pitched three scoreless innings Wednesday and got the victory when Omaha rallied past Memphis 7-6. Yabuta struck out four, walked one and didn’t allow a hit.
It continued a recent upswing for Yabuta, whom the Royals signed last November in hopes he could replace departed David Riske as the club’s primary right-handed setup reliever.
Yabuta has allowed just one earned run in his last 13 innings over five appearances. He also has 16 strikeouts, but also six walks, in that span.