MESA, Ariz. – Cubs pitching prospect Corey Black already felt bad about it. And then he got the news while at dinner Thursday night: He’d broken Hunter Pence’s left forearm when he hit him with that pitch in the Cubs’ game against the San Francisco Giants a couple hours earlier.
“It sucks,” he said of his first reaction when told by a dinner companion, who – of all people – is an agent from the same agency that represents both he and Pence. “They just said don’t worry about it.
“But you don’t want to hit people, first of all, and then hurting someone on top of that is just even worse. So it’s a bad feeling. My heart goes out for him, and I hope he heals up real quick and gets back better than ever.”
As he spoke Friday, a replay of the incident was running on the sports show on the clubhouse TV.
“I don’t like seeing it a lot,” Black said.
Manager Joe Maddon sought out Black in the clubhouse Friday morning to check on him and had a simple, firm message to deliver to him:
“I said, `Don’t you dare worry about any of that. That’s part of the game.’ ‘’ Maddon said. “It just happens. It happens once in a while. It’s awful when it happens. He wasn’t trying to do that. It’s part of the game of baseball, and it’s just terrible, and I know he feels badly about it. But there’s not a thing you can do about it.”
Maddon said he understands Black’s urge to apologize but said, “I don’t think it’s necessary. I would even bet that Hunter Pence would say it’s not necessary. It just happens.
“I know for me, if I’m the player and it happened to me, broke my arm, I would not need that apology. It’s part of the game. I signed up to play baseball.”
Black, the 23-year-old right-hander acquired from the Yankees in the 2013 Alfonso Soriano trade, quickly tweeted out a message to Pence, whom he has never met:
“Lost for words. Hope you heal fast @hunterpence hitting someone is never a good feeling. Hurting someone is even worse.”
Black got a lot of Twitter heat from Giants fans but said he felt better when some responded more positively to him after the tweet.
He hopes to eventually to talk to Pence, at least by phone, he said.
“It’s be nice just to talk to him and kind of make sure there’s no hard feelings or anything,” he said, “because it is part of the game and one got away from me. It is what it is, but I just hope he heals up.”
Pence has the longest active games-played streak in the majors at 383.
“It’s just the way of the world, man,” Maddon said. “It’s a car accident. It’s slipping in the bathroom. It just happened to be a pitch that got inside. You live, accidents occur, you move on.”
Black, who was 6-7 with a 3.47 ERA in 25 starts (and a relief appearance) for Class AA Tennessee last year, was making his first big-league spring appearance Thursday.
After getting the first out in the sixth inning of the 8-6 loss to the Giants, he walked back-to-back batters, then hit Pence. He gave up an ensuing run-scoring single and then got an inning-ending double play.
“Just a bad outing,” he said. “A few nerves.”
The inside fastball to Pence definitely wasn’t the way he planned to make a name for himself this spring.
“It is what it is,” he said. “I’ll try to change people’s minds with what I do on the mound.”