Gio Gonzalez, Kurt Suzuki shaken by ex-teammate's head injury

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The line drive that hit Oakland Athletics pitcher Brandon McCarthy in the head Wednesday continues to reverberate through the Washington Nationals clubhouse. Gio Gonzalez and, more recently, Kurt Suzuki teamed with McCarthy in Oakland. Both remain shaken by what occurred.

In a split second, the ball smacked McCarthy’s head with a pop louder than bat made on ball. The right-handed pitcher walked off the mound with a dazed look, but later underwent two hours of surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. He also suffered a skull fracture, epidural hemorrhage and brain contusion.

Gonzalez can’t stand to watch the replay. Not even once. The normally-ebullient left-hander searched for words to convey how bothered the event left him. He’s been hit by a line drive once, a shot to his shin that sidelined him a couple of days.

“It’s a touchy topic,” Gonzalez said Friday. “It’s such a tough situation. Aw, man. I wish there was just a shield that automatically comes up when that happens, when a line drive comes back at you. Unfortunately, it’s tough to react in less than .2 seconds.”

Already, Gonzalez can’t erase the image of Colorado Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio taking Ian Desmond’s line drive off his right temple last August. The blow fractured his skull and broke a vertebrae, among other problems.

“It’s tough to see it live; imagine seeing it on replay over and over,” Gonzalez said. “Oh, man. It’s baseball. You wish you could dodge.”

The words sounded like a plea.

Suzuki caught McCarthy the last two seasons in Oakland before being dealt to the Nationals last month. He considers the pitcher a close friend, someone he developed chemistry with on and off the field.

Sure, Suzuki witnessed pitchers hit by comebackers. But nothing like this. He watched the replay once. He’ll never watch it again.

“I don’t really like watching stuff like that happen to anybody, but somebody you know and are good friends with is definitely rough,” Suzuki said. “I saw it once and thats it.”

Suzuki left a message for McCarthy but doesn’t expect to hear back anytime soon, as he remains hospitalized. McCarthy remains in a life-threatening situation, Athletics trainer Nick Paparesta told the San Francisco Chronicle late Friday. 

“Baseball, Gonzalez said, “needs a guy like that to come back.”

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