Broken bat nearly impales Green
Sox shortstop avoids injury during scary second-inning play
WASHINGTON -- Infielders are taught from the beginning of their baseball existence to keep their eye on the ball until it gets into the glove. As much as Red Sox shortstop Nick Green tried to keep that in mind in the bottom of the second inning on Wednesday night, a sharp and potentially dangerous object got in the way.
Elijah Dukes of the Washington Nationals hit a broken-bat grounder that would have been a routine double play to end the inning. As it turns out, the bat split in half, with the top end flying toward Green as he was trying to field his position.
At the last instant, Green slightly deflected the sheared piece of wood with his shoulder. The ball went through Green's legs and into left for a hit. The piece of bat had such a sharp end that it wound up standing straight up in the short grass in left field.
"It hit me in the forearm, but it was the barrel, so it was all right," said Green after the Red Sox beat the Nationals, 6-4. "It happened so fast, you don't really have time to react. I did what I could do to get out of the way of the bat. That's all you can do. I didn't have time to get scared. [It's] just one of those things that happens and you try to get away as quick as we can."
The scary moment merely reinforced why Major League Baseball has been doing studies of maple bats in an effort to make them safer. New regulations were put in place over the winter, with bat manufacturers required to follow specific guidelines to limit the chances of wood splitting in the violent fashion that occurred when Dukes hit his ball on Wednesday.
"That's a little bit scary when you see it sticking in the ground like that," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I'm sure that's why the league is doing tests on bats, because someone is going to get hurt."
The bat used by Dukes was maple. Some players use ash, which is believed to be safer.
"I don't use maple," Green said. "I use it in BP, but, obviously, that was [a] maple [bat that Dukes was using]. They say they fixed it, but that obviously didn't fix it."
Though the fluky hit led to a run for the Nationals, it wasn't fun for them to watch either.
"Lord, that was very scary," said Nationals manager Manny Acta. "We have seen bats split in two in the last couple of years, but I've never seen a bat travel that far and that fast toward that guy. What came to my mind was, 'What if it was toward the mound, which is only 60 feet, six inches [away]?' It was scary, but I think they are doing some studies on that. Hopefully something good will come out of it."
Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester was more concerned about the issue of bat safety than the run he allowed in that second inning.
"I thought we put a whole lot of money and time into researching how that doesn't happen, but we're still getting a lot of bat heads that break and go flying," said Lester, who added players need to take cover when a bat comes flying in their direction. "There's nothing you can really do."
"That was a crazy play," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "Those bats, when they snap like that, they usually don't go that far, but we're just fortunate that it didn't hit [Green], stab him or something."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.