Reds 5, Twins 2
A first-inning pitch by Lohse, a former Twin who now pitches for the Cincinnati Reds, sailed high and hit Hunter in the helmet.
Hunter fell to the ground, laying on his back for about two minutes after what both players described as an accident. Hunter then got up, walked off the field and left the game with assistance from two trainers. He said he did not lose consciousness and did not have any symptoms of a concussion.
With a knot on the left side of his head, Hunter said he would take Saturday off as planned. He hoped to return to the lineup on Sunday against Boston.
The Reds went on to defeat the Twins 5-2 in front of a sold-out crowd of 7,726.
“This was my last night game in Fort Myers,” Hunter said. “I can’t see. There’s not enough lighting. It’s always been that way. I was waiting on the pitch and then, boom! I’ve never been hit in the head. I thought the ball was going to break, but it didn’t. It just got away from him. It wasn’t intentional.”
The Twins led 1-0 after a bases-loaded groundout by first baseman Justin Morneau, just before Hunter’s first and final plate appearance of the night.
“Open your eyes! Open your eyes!” fellow Twins outfielder Rondell White said to Hunter when he was lying on the ground.
“No,” Hunter told White, in a soft, soothing voice. “I’m in heaven. Why should I open my eyes? Don’t wake me up.”
After Lohse threw the pitch, he jogged to home plate to check on his former teammate.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who clashed with Lohse down the stretch of the 2005 season, patted Lohse on the shoulder. The pitcher then left the game because of a strained right hamstring he sustained earlier in the inning.
Lohse and Hunter played cards together last week, with Lohse and teammate Eddie Guardado, another former Twin, making a day trip to Fort Myers. Hunter won the card game, prompting Lohse to joke: “Payback, you know. I bet he can’t wait to read that.”
But seriously, Lohse said, “You can’t read anything deeper into it. I was just trying to throw a fastball. It was real quick. There was no time for him to get out of the way.”
Twins RHP Sidney Ponson got his work visa from Aruba in order Thursday and will pitch in a “B” game Monday morning. The Twins can now put him in a Grapefruit League game, too.