- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 9, 2011

KISSIMMEE, FLA. (AP) - Atlanta Braves minor league manager Luis Salazar was awake and able to respond to doctors Wednesday after being hit in the face by Brian McCann’s foul liner while standing in the dugout during an exhibition game.

Salazar may have sustained a concussion and might have a facial fracture and damage around his left eye, Braves general manager Frank Wren said.

Salazar was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center and was to stay overnight. Wren did not have an official hospital report.

“We are just blessed that Luis is alive,” Wren said after St. Louis beat Atlanta 6-1. “The scans so far have been positive … There is an eye surgeon looking at it now. It was a freak accident.”

“He was unable to speak when the paramedics arrived,” he said. “We were very concerned when he was on his way to the hospital but we feel a little bit better now.”

Wren said Salazar was unconscious when an ambulance drove onto the field in the first inning to help the 54-year-old former big leaguer. Wren said Salazar was hit around the nose, toward his left eye.

“That was the worst thing I have ever seen on the field,” Braves star Chipper Jones said. “He wasn’t awake at all. He was out of it. I just looked at him to see if he was breathing. I thought his life might be in danger.”

The game was delayed nearly 20 minutes while medical personnel tended to Salazar. There was a discussion, too, about calling off the rest of the game.

“We all thought about shutting down for the day but everyone just went back out in a state of shock. The game just started rolling again,” Wren said.

McCann took a called third strike from Kyle Lohse on the next pitch, removed himself from the game and went straight to the hospital.

“I just threw him a changeup because I think we all lost focus,” Lohse said.

Salazar was struck while standing on the top step of the first-base dugout. The Braves said Salazar’s son, who was at the game, and his wife, who was not in attendance, also went to the hospital.

“The first thought I had was that I wanted to see him breathing and that he was OK,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We didn’t know until the seventh or eighth inning that he was breathing on his own.”

Jones was on first base when the accident occurred. He said Salazar was leaning against a dugout railing and toppled backward, hitting his head on the concrete floor.

“There were two things,” Jones said. “First he got hit, then he fell backward and hit his head on the floor of the dugout. It was bad enough when he got hit but worse when he hit the floor.”

Atlanta starting pitcher Rodrigo Lopez described the scene as “sickening.”

Salazar played in the major leagues from 1980 through 1992 for San Diego, Detroit, the Cubs and the White Sox. He mostly played third base, was a career .261 hitter with 94 home runs, and played in the 1984 World Series for the Padres.

Salazar was set to manage the Braves‘ Class A team in Lynchburg, Va. He was the Double-A hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers the past three seasons.

NOTES: Lohse gave up one run in four innings. … David Freese homered and doubled for the Cardinals.

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