A's Norris takes another blow to the head

A's Norris takes another blow to the head
June 22, 2014, 8:00 pm
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It's not ideal, but it is one of the hazards of the job.
Derek Norris

OAKLAND -– A’s catcher Derek Norris was struck in the head by yet another backswing in Sunday’s game against Boston, which forced him from the game and sent him to the hospital as a precaution.

In the top of the 10th, Jonathan Herrera’s backswing caught Norris flush on the left side of his head. It marked the fourth time in the past two weeks that Norris has taken a follow-through to the head, and it’s forcing the A’s to consider making adjustments in the positioning of their catchers to avoid further danger.

Norris also was struck by a foul tip Friday night that left him with a bruised forearm and kept him out of Saturday’s game.

Sunday’s incident was definitely the scariest yet for Norris. He was down on the ground and tended to for several minutes before slowly walking off the field with assistance. Norris never lost consciousness, and manager Bob Melvin said there were no initial signs of a concussion. But Norris said he was headed for the hospital anyway to get a CAT scan.

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“It's not ideal, but it is one of the hazards of the job,” Norris said after the game. “Ultimately, because the hitters aren't taking any shorter of a backswing, I think I'm going to have to make the adjustment. A tick here and there off the mask or glove is one thing, but this one got me in a pretty good part of the head and not the helmet or the mask. For my own health, I think I'm just going to have to take a step back.”

Melvin, a former catcher himself, agreed that the A’s are going to have to re-examine the issue and find a way to keep their catchers safer.

“Where he's getting hit (on his body), even if you're a foot back, you're still going to get hit,” Melvin said. “I think it’s just a part of the game. Obviously it’s not something we like. … So it's probably time to look at something as far as protecting the catcher. What, I don’t know.”

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The A’s have recent history with catchers and head injuries. John Jaso was struck in the mask with foul tips in back to back games in July of last season, and he wound up missing the rest of the season with lingering effects from a concussion.

Jaso was asked how easy or difficult it would be for a catcher to get used to positioning himself differently behind the plate as a safety precaution.

“He’s just going to have to fiddle around with that,” Jaso said. “It would end up being a pretty easy adjustment, I think. The only thing that would be a little bit hard is just being aware every single pitch. That’s a lot of pitches in a game. And your habits are you’re going to want to go back to where you (originally) are.”