Cubs center fielder Ian Happ returned to the Cubs lineup against the Cardinals on Saturday, the purple tinge above his right eye hinting at what had kept him out of the series opener the day before.
Happ missed one game after fouling a pitch back into his face at Pittsburgh on Thursday.
In real time, it happened in a split second. But Happ has trained his eyes to pick up the spin of a ball as it flashes out of a pitcher’s hand and across the plate. So, when he fouled a pitch back into his face in the fourth inning, he said he watched the lace of the ball scratch his cornea.
“Definitely scary in the moment,” he said Saturday. “Definitely scary when I got up to a knee there and was trying to get my bearings and figure out if I could see and just trying to blink it out. It was really blurry on the field. Obviously, I didn’t feel like I could productively take the rest of the at-bat.”
Though he went through a concussion test and x-rays as soon as he left the game, Happ said he wasn’t worried that he’d suffered a head injury or broken a bone. The tests did come back negative.
Happ was worried about his vision. Every time the wind blew, his eye watered. On the plane ride back to Chicago that night, it felt like something was stuck in his eye.
“Vision is so important for us as hitters,” Happ said, “especially for the way I think about my game.”
Happ goes through a daily vision-training routine. He doesn’t wear glasses or contacts and said his right eye has been the sharper of the two.
Happ went through eye tests on Friday, and he said he came away feeling “comfortable and lucky” after talking to the doctor about the scratch on his cornea and the healing process that had already begun.
Saturday morning, Happ went through his regular vision training and said he could see clearly. He headed to Wrigley Field ready to tell Cubs manager David Ross that he felt comfortable returning.