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Friday, September 2, 2011

Al Alburquerque elated to be headed back to the field

DETROIT — Al Alburquerque is happy to be back to throwing a baseball.

Shoot, at this point, he’s happy to be doing anything.

After being struck in the head by a ball hit during batting practice four weeks ago in Baltimore, the rookie reliever is finally headed back on the field.

He’ll head to Toledo tonight, and pitch an inning for the Mud Hens on Saturday, then he expects to be back with the Tigers on Sunday.

“I’m excited to get back and help my team, you know?” Alburquerque said in the Tigers’ clubhouse Friday, after taking part in the team photo.

It’s a happy conclusion to what was initially a scary incident. Alburquerque was warming up on the field when he was struck in the side of the head — just inches from his temple — by a ball hit by the Orioles’ Robert Andino. Alburquerque went down head-first, as teammates and training staff rushed to his side. [Watch the video HERE]

“I know nothing. All I know is I play catch, and when the ball hit me, my friend say ‘Heads up!’ but the ball hit me already. I feel weird and everything. I start crying, you know?” said Alburquerque, who acknowledged that the ball struck him “very good” in the head.

The 25-year-old was rushed to the hospital for a CT scan, which showed some internal bleeding. Once he was released, he was driven back to Michigan by a member of the equipment staff.

He was placed on the seven-day disabled list, but Dr. Andrew Russman, a MTBI (mild trauma brain injury) specialist, recommended he be kept from any physical activity for another week or more. That enforced inactivity ate at him, as he was left alone in his apartment while the Tigers took a seven-day road trip to Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

“It was hard. I listen to him, you know? He’s the doctor. He know better than me,” Alburqueque said. “I want to play, I want to help my team, but if he say I need a rest, I need to listen to him.”

He was finally cleared to resume baseball activities this week, and has already thrown two side sessions.

“That’d be huge for us. We need another righty down there,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “But you just don’t know how that’s going to play out. He hasn’t been out there for a while. There’s always a concern when a guy hasn’t faced hitters, so we want him to go face hitters, rather than just pitch a simulated game. I don’t think that would be good for him, and I don’t think that would be good for our hitters.”

Either way, Alburquerque is excited to be returning.

“The pitching coach (Jeff Jones) tell me I have to play catch with him now,” he joked. “Sometimes it happens, you know? I be lucky to play again. I say ‘Thank you, God’ for the opportunity to play, and hopefully come back good and try to help my team.”

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{Photo credit: Getty Images}


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