In a frightening scene at Yankee Stadium on Monday night, Yankees starter Bryan Mitchell was hit in the face with a line drive off the bat of Eduardo Nunez, a right-handed hitter for the Minnesota Twins, in the second inning of an 8-7, 10-inning Yankees victory. In 2013, when Nunez was an infielder with the Yankees and on a rehab assignment with Class A Tampa, he and Mitchell were teammates for three games.
“I feel very bad for him,” said Nunez, who said he did not recall playing with Mitchell. “I hope everything is O.K. and I see him soon.”
Mitchell, 24, was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, where he was found to have a small nasal fracture. He was later released from the hospital, and Yankees physicians will continue to monitor him for potential concussion symptoms.
“Really, really scary,” Manager Joe Girardi said of the play. “It seems like your heart just drops into your stomach, and you’re scared for the kid and you see blood coming out. I was really worried.”
In an odd twist, the game ended when Nunez mishandled a bases-loaded grounder by Chase Headley and threw to first base after Brendan Ryan had already crossed the plate with the winning run.
“There’s no point, really, in throwing to first base,” Twins Manager Paul Molitor said. “It’s just a reactionary kind of thing.”
The bottom of the 10th opened with a double by Greg Bird, who had replaced first baseman Mark Teixeira earlier in the game. Teixeira fouled a ball off his shin in the sixth inning, bruising his leg, and is considered day-to-day.
Brian McCann, who had already driven in five runs, doubled deep to center field off Twins closer Glen Perkins, but Bird was questionably held at third base. The Yankees eventually loaded the bases on an intentional walk to Carlos Beltran, who hit his third homer in four games in the sixth, and called in Ryan to pinch-run for Bird.
Despite the win, which moved the Yankees to a full game ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East, the injury to Mitchell cast a shadow on an already disappointing day.
Three hours before his third career start, Mitchell strode into the clubhouse virtually unnoticed, with a black cap worn low, almost covering his eyes. While Mitchell arrived incognito, C..C. Sabathia was greeted by a swarm of news media personnel and expressed his remorse over having nearly been involved in an altercation outside a Toronto nightclub after Friday’s win over the Blue Jays. Earlier in the day, video of the incident had surfaced online.
Sabathia was originally slated to start Monday, and Girardi said Sabathia would have pitched if the game had continued, as the Yankees had used all six relief pitchers through the 10th. Mitchell was given the nod because the team is in the middle of a stretch of 16 consecutive games and because Girardi had not had to overuse relievers during the weekend series with the Blue Jays. The rationale was that Mitchell could throw about 85 pitches and then let the bullpen get in some work.
The Yankees quickly tried to put Sabathia’s kerfuffle behind them, and the mood brightened when McCann smashed a three-run homer in the first inning for a 3-0 lead.
The Twins got one run back on Nunez’s single, which scored Eddie Rosario.
Caleb Cotham relieved Mitchell and struck out Aaron Hicks to end the top of the second inning with the Yankees leading, 3-1. But shortly after that, the game turned into a battle of attrition, with both the Yankees’ bullpen and Twins starter Kyle Gibson struggling to throw strikes.
Cotham gave up three runs in the third, highlighted by a two-run home run by Miguel Sano. The Yankees scored two in the bottom of the inning to reclaim the lead, 5-4, but Cotham allowed another homer in the fourth before being relieved by Chasen Shreve.
The Twins tacked on another run on a Trevor Plouffe homer in the fifth. The teams continued to trade runs until Ryan scored on Headley’s grounder.
The main concern of the night, though, was with Mitchell, a native of Reidsville, N.C., who was a 16th-round pick by the Yankees in the 2009 draft. He made his debut just over a year ago, on Aug. 10, 2014, throwing two scoreless innings at home against the Cleveland Indians. His first career start came a month later, in a 5-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
The Yankees, who were thought to be seeking another arm last month at the nonwaiver trade deadline, decided to instead hedge their bets on organizational pitchers like Mitchell. The day after the deadline passed, Mitchell started and lasted four innings in a loss to the White Sox in which he yielded four runs on seven hits.
A few days before that game, Mitchell reportedly suffered a slight head injury while working out with Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Cotham, who was drafted with Mitchell and teammates in Scranton at the time of the injury, said he apparently slipped and banged his head.
That is why there may have been extra concern when Mitchell, a right-hander who has been used mostly out of the bullpen this season, was ahead of Nunez, 0-2, with two outs and runners on first and third when he unfurled a 93-mile-per-hour cutter. He had just completed his delivery, planting his left foot, when the ball ricocheted off his face, knocking the cap off his head. Mitchell’s legs slid out from under him, and he landed back-first on the mound, clutching his face with his right hand while his glove slid off his left hand.
“Personally, I just kind of bowed and said a little prayer for him,” said Molitor, the Twins’ manager. “I was grateful he was able to walk off the field.”
As the ball shot past second baseman Stephen Drew and into center field, Mitchell knelt over, and McCann, Girardi and Yankees trainers rushed to the mound. Television cameras zoomed in on Mitchell, and blood could be seen dripping from his head.
“You’re sick,” said McCann, who spoke to Mitchell on the field and was told he was all right. “You’re sick to your stomach, just praying for the best.”
Although Mitchell did not speak to reporters afterward, teammates said that they saw him in the clubhouse after the game.
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of a picture caption with this article misstated the day that Bryan Mitchell was hit. It was Monday, not Tuesday.