MESA, Ariz. — Victor Caratini is a likeable, understated young catcher for the Cubs who seems to have done a nice job of learning to hit the ball up the middle like he was taught.
“That’s good,” he said. “But I don’t want to hit nobody.”
When he lined a ball off former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez’s pitching arm Monday, it looked for a moment like it could be serious as Hernandez immediately dropped his glove, grabbed his arm and jumped in pain.
X-rays were negative, and by Tuesday, the Mariners’ ace appeared to have suffered only a bad bruise.
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But for those first few moments, Caratini had flashbacks to that minor-league game on May 9, when another line drive struck Cardinals prospect Daniel Ponce de Leon in the head, fracturing the pitcher’s skull and sending him to the hospital for lifesaving surgery.
Caratini’s first thought Monday: “I wanted to make sure [Hernandez] was doing good and it was not something bad like last year.”
Caratini visited Ponce de Leon in the hospital after the surgery, and he and teammates raised money to help defray travel costs for the pitcher’s family to fly to Des Moines, Iowa.
On Monday Caratini waited about and hour after the game and texted Hernandez.
“He’s doing good,” Caratini said. “He said everything’s OK.”
Which gave Caratini two good reasons to breathe easier this week. On Sunday in Jupiter, Florida, Ponce de Leon pitched in a game for the first time since getting hit, finishing two innings against the Astros.
Ben Zobrist, whose schedule has been slowed by back pain, loaded up on ground balls in practice Tuesday and hit in the batting cage.
He said he expects to work up to a full practice schedule, including hitting on the field, by the end of the week and expects to get cleared by the medical staff to play in games by early next week.
“I feel good,” he said. “I feel like I could get in there, but it’s just kind of [a] progressive [buildup].”
Flu keeps Bryant out again
Third baseman Kris Bryant was out of action for a second consecutive day Tuesday with “a little bit of a fever,” manager Joe Maddon said.
“He’s doing better,” Maddon said, adding he expected Bryant to play Wednesday or Thursday.
The Cubs will avoid Japanese free agent sensation Shohei Ohtani on when they visit the Angels on Friday in Tempe. Friday is Ohtani’s day to pitch, but the Angels have scheduled him to start a B game instead of the game at the stadium.
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