Leiter hit in head, might miss first start

Updated: April 4, 2004, 10:33 AM ET
Associated Press

JUPITER, Fla. -- New York Mets pitcher Al Leiter was hit in the head by a line drive Saturday and could miss his first start of the season.

Leiter grabbed the side of his face after getting hit by Alex Gonzalez's liner in the second inning of New York's 21-13 win over the Florida Marlins.

He fell on the mound, but never lost consciousness. After being treated by trainers, he stood up on his own and walked to a nearby golf cart that brought him to the clubhouse.

Leiter, 38, was taken to Jupiter Medical Center for a CT scan and X-rays, which were negative. He was to return to the team's spring training complex in Port St. Lucie to be examined by assistant team physician Joe Bosco.

"I'll be fine. I've got a little headache and a little bruise," Leiter said. "I saw it and I thought I had it. It was knuckling a little bit and I missed it."

The left-hander said he didn't know if he would miss his first start Thursday night in Atlanta.

"If it's still really sore I won't push it," Leiter said.

Leiter was lucid enough to call his wife and tell her he was OK.

"Hopefully, everything is going to be fine," Mets manager Art Howe said. "He just got a little piece of it with his glove. We're just very fortunate it didn't hit him in the eye or break his nose.

"He said it's the first time in all the years he's been pitching that he's been struck by a ball in the head," Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said. "He has a nice-size welt on the right temple area. It's just a little throbbing right now."

Leiter is scheduled to pitch New York's third game of the season on Thursday night in Atlanta. Horwitz said his status for that game had not been determined.

Leiter had allowed one unearned run and two hits Saturday when he was replaced by David Weathers. Leiter entered 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA in four spring starts.

The left-hander went 15-9 with a 3.99 ERA last season.

"He said it's the first time in all the years he's been pitching that he's been struck by a ball in the head," Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said. "He has a nice-size welt on the right temple area. It's just a little throbbing right now."

The Mets got 23 hits and scored more runs than in their previous six games combined.

Ty Wigginton homered and finished 5-for-6 with four RBIs. Cliff Floyd went 2-for-4 with five RBIs, and Vance Wilson and Shane Spencer each had three RBIs.

Marlins left-hander Dontrelle Willis, last season's NL Rookie of the Year, allowed five earned runs in four innings. The rest of the Mets' runs came off four relievers who learned Friday night that they made the roster: right-handers Nate Bump and Justin Wayne and left-handers Tommy Phelps and Matt Perisho.

"The score tells part of the story," Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest said. "The wind was blowing. It could have been guys knowing they had made the team and they relaxed and wanted to get out of here. You always want to end well, but I don't think we put a lot into this."

Marlins outfielder Abraham Nunez hit his major league-leading 10th home run of the spring.

Notes
The Mets traded OF Roger Cedeno to St. Louis for C Chris Widger and INF Wilson Delgado. ... The Marlins traded RHP Blaine Neal to San Diego for RHP Ben Howard. Neal had been cut from Florida's major league roster on Friday. Both pitchers will start the season in Triple-A. ... Willis will make his first start Thursday. ... Three Florida starters -- outfielder Jeff Conine, third baseman Mike Lowell and right-hander Josh Beckett -- will not join the Marlins on their trip to Albuquerque for an exhibition game Sunday against their Triple-A affiliate. Conine missed his third straight game Saturday with a sinus infection. Lowell bruised his left shin on a foul ball and will stay back to reduce the chances of swelling. Beckett will throw in the bullpen in Jupiter because of rainy weather forecast for Sunday in Albuquerque. All three are expected to start Florida's season opener on Tuesday.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press