WASHINGTON - Atlanta Braves utilityman Charlie Culberson suffered multiple facial fractures and will miss the remainder of the season after he was hit in the face by a pitch Saturday in Washington, manager Brian Snitker said Sunday.
Culberson is doing better than expected and flew back to Atlanta accompanied by a trainer Sunday. He’s been alert since the injury and didn’t stay overnight in a Washington, D.C.-area hospital.
Culberson will miss the remainder of the season but won’t require surgery, Snitker said after Sunday’s game, a 7-0 loss to the Nationals. He was scheduled to meet with an optometrist and specialists in Atlanta on Sunday to determine the next steps in his treatment.
Following Sunday’s loss, Snitker said the news on Culberson was the “best case scenario” given the circumstances. The fractures are not displaced and will heal; he just has to be careful for a while. He’ll be with the team through the rest of their season and should be ready for spring training.
The team was encouraged about the severity of the injury.
“I talked to Charlie a little bit ago,” Snitker said prior to the game. “I didn’t see him, just talked to him, but guys who did see him say he looked better than they thought he would this morning. He sounded good for what he’d been through. It’s very encouraging.”
In the seventh inning of a 1-1 game, Culberson entered to pinch-hit with two runners on base and none out against Fernando Rodney. Attempting to bunt, Culberson was hit in the right cheek by a pitch, quickly dropping to the ground, where he remained for a few minutes surrounded by trainers and coaches.
Culberson was carted off the field, signaling to a distraught Rodney with a thumbs-up sign. Rodney stayed in the game, getting knocked around by a Braves offense that scored four runs that inning and nine more overall in a 10-1 win.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez called Snitker prior to Sunday’s game to wish Culberson well.
“I want to extend my apologies and concerns for Charlie,” Martinez said Sunday. “They said he’s going to be alright, but (I) also (reached out) to let them know that Fernando wanted to apologize as well. It’s unfortunate when something like that happens. We feel awful as an organization. It’s a part of the game you never want to see. But I wanted to make sure I talked to Brian today, so we’re all good.”
The Braves offense wasn’t the only storyline upon Culberson’s exit. Martinez asked the umpires if Culberson’s play was actually a swing rather than hit by pitch, according to home plate umpire Tim Timmons. It was ruled a strike, which led to an emotional Snitker colorfully arguing his case until he was ejected.
“I’m sitting here looking at this guy pouring blood on the ground, and I’m like, ‘Come on,’” Snitker said after the game. Timmons understood Snitker’s perspective but told a pool reporter following the game that “the rules are the rules.”
Martinez has since taken heat for his decision, but he said the conversation with Timmons didn’t go as it’s been described.
“I really don’t want to talk about that,” Martinez said when asked about his discussion with the umpires. “I had a conversation with them, and the way it sounded was not the way (it went). Let’s just say that. But as a manager, it’s my job. We’re in a 1-1 game. So that’s all I’m going to say. It stinks. But it wasn’t the way it was portrayed to be.
“The last thing I wanted to be is a jackass. I’ll tell you right now. But again, they understood. It’s part of the game. We’re in a 1-1 game. I would think that everybody would understand that. It’s unfortunate. It stunk.”
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