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ATLANTA – A battered and bruised Kevin Pillar, with a vertical gash down his nose, purple bags under his eyes and a cotton ball in his right nostril, said he was sad the day after getting hit on the face by a pitch.
But he wasn’t sad about the pain. He was upset because he felt he let the Mets down, as he became the team’s 13th player to go on the injured list.
“I feel damn normal right now,” Pillar said in a press conference with reporters on Tuesday. “Aside from my face looking the way it does and not being able to breathe too well out of my nose. But I feel great. I got no headache. I got no symptoms. I feel pretty fortunate to be sitting here.”
Pillar suffered multiple fractures in his nose after a 94.5 mph fastball from Braves pitcher Jacob Webb struck him square in his face in the seventh inning of the Mets’ 3-1 win on Tuesday. In a gory scene, he immediately fell to the ground and gushed unrelenting blood from his nose. Somehow, Pillar stood up and walked off the field under his own power. Somehow, the fractures in his face were limited exclusively to his nose.
The veteran outfielder will undergo plastic surgery to reset his nose sometime soon, after the swelling in his face goes down. About 10-14 days after that surgery, he can resume baseball activity. Pillar, whose plan is to get back on the field as soon as possible, said his nose doesn’t even need to fully heal before he returns to play.
“Do I feel lucky? The answer is yes,” Pillar said. “It could’ve been a lot worse. Orbital bone, cheek bone, you start to deal with some vision stuff and some eye stuff that takes a little bit longer. The fact that it is just my nose will allow me to get back on the field a little bit quicker.”
Webb, distressed after his heater drilled Pillar, felt awful about the gruesome play. After texting while Pillar was at the hospital receiving X-rays and a CT scan on Monday, the two players met in the tunnel at Truist Park on Tuesday. Webb said his main concern was whether Pillar was OK, and the right-handed pitcher found it a little difficult to go to sleep on Monday night while the hit by pitch was so fresh.
“We went over there, shook hands, hugged it out,” Pillar said on meeting Webb on Tuesday. “He reiterated that he felt terrible about what happened. I tried to reiterate that it’s part of the game, I know you didn’t mean to do it, and I just told him to continue to be confident and believe in his stuff because his stuff is good.”
With the bloody scene behind him and several doctor’s appointments ahead of him, Pillar was in good spirits less than 24 hours after the second hit by pitch to his face in his career. His wife and parents, at least at first, were not able to say the same. Pillar’s wife, Amanda, saw the play live from California on a road trip to her parents’ house. His young daughter didn’t see the play and his even younger son didn’t fully understand what happened.
With Pillar still being so new to the Mets, Amanda got in touch with the Braves’ training staff, a group Pillar had previously worked with in Toronto, for her point of contact. Pillar finally reached out to her and said he was OK after he got the bleeding in his nose to stop.
“She just felt helpless,” Pillar said. “She feels bad I’m here by myself, but I’m fine. Obviously my parents, too, were scared.”
Pillar can barely see out of his right eye, which is swollen and puffy, but he joked with manager Luis Rojas and told him, were it not for his limited eyesight, they’d be fighting about him being back in Tuesday’s lineup. Pillar added he wanted to get in the batting cage on Tuesday and see right-on-right curveballs, even if it was just one or two pitches, to let himself know he can get back in the batter’s box again.
Despite the concern and support from all over the country (Pillar has played for five MLB teams across his nine-year career), the physical pain he felt and still being unable to breathe through his nose until he undergoes surgery, Pillar said he feels bad that he can’t help the Mets over their injury hump. He joined Jacob deGrom, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis, Carlos Carrasco, Seth Lugo and several others, making up a baker’s dozen on the IL.
Pillar joined the Mets this past offseason and, though he began the year as a bench player, he received more playing time as the starting center fielder earlier this month after Brandon Nimmo went on the IL.
“I pride myself on being available, so I think my immediate reaction was sadness that I don’t know what the extent of what just happened was, and I know that I’m leaving a game, and I know we’ve already been shorthanded with injuries,” he said. “It was frustrating. I had to take a moment to just collect myself.
“I was sad. It wasn’t so much about the pain, it was just about the fact that this team has gone through a lot. … That’s the thing that hurts the most. My face will heal, but my heart’s broken right now because this team is hurting right now. I came here and didn’t really know what my role was going to be and was gifted an opportunity to go out there and play every day and I don’t take that lightly and it hurts.”