Medical staffers tend to Rays pitcher Alex Cobb after he was hit in the head… (J. Meric / Getty Images )
When Tampa Bay's Alex Cobb was struck in his right ear by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City's Eric Hosmer on Saturday, he became the fifth pitcher since September to be hit in the head by a batted ball.
Cobb was hospitalized overnight and will be out at least a week. And though Angels reliever Kevin Jepsen says every pitcher is aware of the risks when he takes the mound, that doesn't make the replays any easier to watch.
"It makes you cringe," he said. "It's tough."
Jepsen is fortunate never to have been hit, but he says it's not hard to understand why it's happening so frequently. In fact, it nearly happened again Sunday when the Angels' Mike Trout hit a line drive that struck Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia in the midsection. Trout wound up with an infield single and Sabathia stayed in the game.
BOX SCORE: New York 6, Angels 5
"That ball was going a hundred million miles an hour and you don't have time to react," Jepsen said. "You don't have time to get your glove up all the time. You get the front part of your face out of the way; that seems to be the common [reaction].
"You just kind of take your eyes off it because you want to get your face out of the way."
Meanwhile, Angels outfielder Brad Hawpe sympathizes with Hosmer. Eight seasons ago Hawpe fractured the right elbow of Chicago Cubs pitcher Mark Prior with a line drive that was clocked at 117 mph.
"You feel terrible," he said. "You're trying to hit the ball in the middle of the field. And unfortunately for the pitcher, the pitcher's in the middle of the field. You and the pitcher both would prefer for the ball to go past him for a base hit."
"He'll never forget it," Hawpe added of Hosmer, who visited Cobb in the hospital Saturday. "I'm sure he's thinking about it right now."
Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said Josh Hamilton wasn't available to pinch-hit in the ninth inning Sunday.
"Day off," he said.
That news came as a surprise to Hamilton, who said he was a little disappointed he wasn't called on with the game on the line.
"He didn't tell me that," Hamilton said. "I hit for 40 minutes in the cage today."
Another theory on why he wasn't used? Hamilton is batting .189 in June and .213 for the season. So Scioscia called instead on Hawpe, who singled.
Blanton to start
An off day last week allowed the Angels to skip Joe Blanton's turn the last time through their rotation, but Scioscia said the right-hander, who leads the majors with 10 losses and 111 hits given up, will return to the mound Tuesday against Seattle.
Scioscia said pitching coach Mike Butcher has worked to repair some mechanical issues in Blanton's delivery and the Angels are hoping to see a different pitcher Tuesday.
"He knows what he needs to do," Scioscia said. "And we'll see if he moves forward with it. The bottom line is really executing on the field. He needs to make better pitches."