WASHINGTON - Braves utilityman Charlie Culberson suffered multiple facial fractures when he was hit in the face by a pitch Saturday in Washington, manager Brian Snitker said Sunday.
Culberson is doing better than expected and flew back to Atlanta accompanied by a trainer on Sunday. He's been alert since the injury and didn't stay overnight a Washington, D.C. area hospital.
The Braves don't yet know the extent of the facial fractures or if Culberson will require surgery. He was scheduled to meet with an optometrist and specialists in Atlanta on Sunday to determine the next steps in his treatment.
"I talked to Charlie a little bit ago," Snitker said. "I didn't see him, just talked to him, but guys who did see him say he looked better than they thought he would this morning. He sounded good for what he'd been through. It's very encouraging."
In the seventh inning of a 1-1 game, Culberson entered to pinch-hit with two on and none out against Fernando Rodney. Attempting to bunt, Culberson was hit in the right cheek by a pitch, quickly dropping to the ground, where he remained for a few minutes surrounded by trainers and coaches.
Culberson was carted off the field, signaling to a distraught Rodney with a thumbs up sign. Rodney stayed in the game, getting knocked around by a Braves offense that scored four runs that inning and nine more overall in a 10-1 win..
Nationals manager Dave Martinez called Snitker prior to Sunday's game to wish Culberson well.
"I want to extend my apologies and concerns for Charlie," Martinez said Sunday. "They said he's going to be alright, but (I) also (reached out) to let them know that Fernando wanted to apologize as well. It's unfortunate when something like that happens. We feel awful as an organization. It's a part of the game you never want to see. But I wanted to make sure I talked to Brian today, so we're all good."
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The Braves' offense wasn't the only storyline upon Culberson's exit. Martinez asked the umpires if Culberson's play was actually a swing rather than hit by pitch, according to home plate umpire Tim Timmons. It was ruled a strike, which led to an emotional Snitker colorfully arguing his case until he was ejected.
"I'm sitting here looking at this guy pouring blood on the ground and I'm like, ‘Come on,'" Snitker said after the game. Timmons understood Snitker's perspective but told a pool reporter following the game that "the rules are the rules."
Martinez has since taken heat for his decision, but he said the conversation with Timmons didn't go as it's been described.
"I really don't want to talk about that," Martinez said when asked about his discussion with the umpires. "I had a conversation with them and the way it sounded was not the way (it went). Let's just say that. But as a manager, it's my job. We're in a 1-1 game. So that's all I'm going to say. It stinks. But it wasn't the way it was portrayed to be.
"The last thing I wanted to be is a jackass. I'll tell you right now. But again, they understood. It's part of the game. We're in a 1-1 game. I would think that everybody would understand that. It's unfortunate. It stunk."
The Braves should know more about Culberson Sunday night or Monday, Snitker said. The team is off Monday before beginning its final homestand of the season Tuesday against the Phillies and Giants.
This article was written by Gabe Burns, with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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