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SF Giants lose Patrick Bailey to second concussion in young career

SF Giants lose Patrick Bailey to second concussion in young career

PHILADELPHIA — Nobody, not even Patrick Bailey, thought the foul tip off his face mask early Friday night had been severe enough to concuss the catcher for the second time in seven months. He felt fine. Well enough to draw a leadoff walk, run the bases and score from second on a double to right field.

The next inning, though, Bailey was out of the game.

Before first pitch Saturday, the 24-year-old Gold Glove finalist was placed on the injured list with a concussion, ruling him out for at least the next seven days. To give the Giants a second catcher on their roster, they recalled Blake Sabol from Triple-A Sacramento.

“As far as these things go, hopefully it’s mild,” manager Bob Melvin said. “You can really tell the ones that really get you and bite you a little bit. I’m not sure he’s in that position yet, but based on the fact that he’s had these before it’s an easy decision to make.”

Last September, the Cubs’ Jeimer Candelario barreled into Bailey on a play at the plate. The next day, he was placed on the IL with his first concussion and missed the next seven days.

In the first inning of Friday’s 4-3 loss, Alec Bohm fouled back a 1-1 offering from Jordan Hicks that struck Bailey directly in his face mask, the traditional style with leather padding that straps on to the protective helmet covering the rest of his head.

Bailey initially remained in the game, finishing the inning, taking part in the two-run rally in the top half of the second and catching the first batter of the bottom half. After Nick Castellanos reached on ground ball to Matt Chapman, Bailey motioned to the dugout. After a conversation with Melvin and head trainer Dave Groeschner, Bailey walked back to the dugout and was replaced by Tom Murphy.

“He said the at-bat was OK,” Melvin said. “The inning that he ended up waving us over, that’s when he was kind of like, ‘Something’s wrong.’”

Bailey told them he was dizzy and his vision was blurred, Melvin said. Because he was in concussion protocol, Bailey was unavailable to speak to reporters.

The previous at-bat, Hicks threw a slider in the strike zone that raised his attention to Bailey’s condition.

“He weirdly, like, flailed at it in a way,” Hicks said. “I’ve never seen that from him. I was like, hmm. I was wondering if something was wrong. … Hopefully he’s good. I’m thinking about him. I don’t want anyone out there with blurry vision when I’m pitching.”

The concussion was Bailey’s second just in the calendar year he has been in the big leagues. He wears a medical brace around his neck intended to reduce the risk. Murphy, who got the start Saturday in his stead, suggested switching masks could be beneficial.

“It’s terrifying, right?” Murphy said. “Pat’s been through some concussions and that sort of thing. I feel for that kid deeply. Hopefully he figures out a better mask for him or something. I know he’s wearing the neck thing to help him with that. I just really hope he’s OK.”

As a former catcher, Melvin is sure he experienced head injuries.

But, he said, “Back when I played nobody knew. You just had a headache. Nowadays they know a lot more about them.

“MLB has gone the extra yard to make sure we protect these guys,” he continued. “There’s tests that he’s going to have to pass to come back. There’s a lot more information these days and I think it protects the players.”

In the meantime, the Giants will split the catching duties between Murphy and Sabol, who represent a downgrade defensively but conveniently own strong platoon splits from the opposite sides. The Giants have a mix of righties and lefties coming up, and Melvin said, “We’ll go day-to-day.”

With the right-hander Taijuan Walker on the mound Sunday, Sabol will likely receive his first start of the season then. He was warming up Carson Seymour when Triple-A manager Dave Brundage called him into his office and told him to pack his bags and catch the next available flight to Philadelphia.

Connecting through Phoenix, Sabol arrived at the team hotel at about 6 a.m.

In 21 games at Triple-A Sacramento, the 26-year-old left-handed hitter is batting .243 with one homer and a .703 OPS but said he’s only recently begun to gain his timing. The bigger emphasis has been on his defense, making 16 starts behind the plate and only five at first base (none in the outfield).

Melvin said Sabol told him he “feels as good behind the plate as he ever has.” He has allowed four passed balls but thrown out four of his nine attempted base stealers.

“I’ve done a really good job back there,” Sabol said. “Blocking, that was a big point of emphasis for me this last year. … Been working really hard with (fellow catcher Jackson Reetz). It’s just us two down there, so it’s a lot of playing time. He’s an awesome guy just to bounce ideas off of and figure some things out.

“And Brundy does a great job with controlling the running game, teaching us what’s a good time to slide step, for pitch outs, to back pick, stuff like that. I think that’s part of the reason we’ve had success down there, just doing a really good job controlling the running game with the pitching staff.”

While being optioned to Triple-A after spending all last season in the big leagues as a Rule 5 draft pick was disappointing, Sabol said, “I didn’t feel like it was a slap in the face by any means. … I think it was good for growth and development for me, honestly.”

As the only other catcher on the 40-man roster, Sabol was the obvious option if Bailey was required to miss time.

He was assigned No. 21, the digits that formerly belonged to Joey Bart, who was designated for assignment last month. The former second overall draft pick landed in Pittsburgh, where he is batting .206 with three homers and an .857 OPS. It came as no surprise to Sabol, who spent his minor-league career in the organization before the Giants snatched him in the Rule 5 draft two winters ago.

“My boy, JB,” Sabol said. “I told him I was happy for him. I thought he fit the M.O. over there. (Pirates general manager Ben) Cherington loves those former first-round picks. As soon as he got DFA’d in the locker room guys were all taking different bets (about where he would land). I was like, it’s 100% the Pirates.”

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