05/24/08 12:20 AM ET
Valverde OK after taking liner to face
Closer able to get glove up, remain in game, earn save
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
Thirty minutes earlier, it was anything but a laughing matter when Valverde was hit in the face by a ball hit by the Phillies' Pedro Feliz during the ninth inning of Friday's game at Minute Maid Park.
Feliz lined a 1-2 pitch that glanced off Valverde's glove and then the side of the right-hander's face. Valverde fell to the ground and play was halted briefly while Astros assistant athletic trainer Rex Jones examined Valverde.
Some of Valverde's teammates feared the worst.
"I got a sick feeling in my stomach; I was just hoping he was all right," outfielder Hunter Pence said. "I didn't think there was any chance he would be staying in the game. I was just hoping he wasn't seriously injured. Then he pops up and says, 'I'm all right,' and he's back on the mound pitching."
"[I saw] Willie Blair in the late '90s get hit in Cleveland, honestly I thought Willie was dead," pitcher Doug Brocail said. "I heard [San Diego's] Chris [Young] got hit the other day in San Diego and my dad said, 'You need to take a look at it.' I refused to look at it. Tonight ... if I get hit in the head [like that] with all the [blood] thinners I'm on, I'm probably dead."
The sellout crowd of 41,152 was very quiet while Jones was attending to Valverde. When Valverde moved his feet, there was applause.
At first base, Feliz watched as Valverde lay on the ground.
"I wasn't happy about it," Feliz said. "I didn't try to do it. In the beginning, when he was on the ground, I thought it doesn't look good from where I could see. I was happy to see him get up and that he was fine."
Valverde eventually regained his feet -- and told his teammates and Astros manager Cecil Cooper that he wanted to stay in the game.
"Never seen anything like it," Cooper said. "Pretty awesome that a guy can take a hit like that and get up. That showed me a whole lot right there.'
Said teammate Brandon Backe: "That shows how much guts he has to stay out there and finish the job."
Valverde took some warmup pitches, and his first pitch to the next Phillies batter, pinch-hitter Chris Coste, registered at 96 mph.
"It rewoke everybody up," Brocail said. "He's a man's man. I thought I was tough. He's a man. When he first fell, I didn't see movement, [and] I got a sickening feeling. Then when he started moving around and he lifted his head, [and] I was like, 'He's going to finish the inning.' It's amazing.
"Thank God we can smile about it and laugh about it now, because you know with what happened to [Young] in San Diego -- I still haven't seen it, I don't want to see it, I don't care to see it -- but obviously it was pretty bad and a lot of blood. We're so close to the batter. He ended up getting a save out of it and we ended up winning, no better way to go."
Valverde recorded his 15th save in 18 chances. Other than a nasty bruise on his cheek, he's fine.
"I feel good right now, everything is good," Valverde said. "I felt a little dizzy. I said you know what, I have to be in the game. Thank God it hit my glove first. If that didn't happen, I don't know where I would be right now."
Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada counseled Valverde before he resumed pitching.
"Miggy told me, 'This is your life, it doesn't matter what happens in the game,'" Valverde said.
But it did to Valverde, obviously.
"It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen," Pence said. "If that doesn't pump you up, I don't know what would."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.