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03/02/09 3:10 PM EST

Lovullo OK after broken bat scare

Tribe's Triple-A manager needs stitches after being struck in face

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- One minute, Torey Lovullo was having a conversation with hitting coach Derek Shelton about outfielder Trevor Crowe. The next, a gaping wound above Lovullo's left eye was getting tended to by head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff.

Just that quickly, Lovullo, the Indians' manager at Triple-A Columbus, had become a victim of the maple bat.

Lovullo was standing with Shelton in the dugout during the fourth inning of the Indians' game against the Rockies on Sunday, watching Crowe at the plate, when Crowe's bat shattered on contact with the ball. The broken bat flew over the heads of Lovullo and Shelton, hit the netting directly above the Indians' dugout and ricocheted back. When Lovullo turned to see where it went, the bat immediately struck him above the eye.

"I was paying attention and locked into the game, but, once the bat cleared the dugout, I thought I was safe," Lovullo said. "As soon as I turned to see where that bat was, it was right on me."

Lovullo knew he was bleeding, so he immediately ducked into the Tribe dugout, out of the view of the fans at Goodyear Ballpark. He was taken off to the trainer's room at the Player Development Complex, where a team doctor used nine stitches to seal the wound.

Back at work Monday morning, Lovullo had a nasty shiner under his sunglasses, his left eye essentially sealed shut.

He was lucky he was wearing sunglasses at the time of the incident. Had he not been wearing them, the bat might have pierced his eye.

"They definitely protected me," he said. "That was a blessing that I had them on."

Ordinarily, a player or coach getting struck by an object in the dugout is guilty of not paying full attention to the game. But in this case, Lovullo was only guilty of forgetting about the net behind the dugout. In the vast majority of ballparks, the netting is only located behind the plate. At the Indians' new spring home, it extends to the end of each dugout to provide protection for fans down the baselines.

"[The netting] is very close," Lovullo said. "We're all glad it's there to protect fans, but we just have to get more used to that, knowing it's there."

Broken bats are, of course, part of the game. But last season, the higher proliferation of broken maple bats led Major League Baseball to investigate the issue. The bats weren't banned, but MLB did impose a set of criteria regarding "slope of grain" that manufacturers must adhere to.

"We know Major League Baseball is aware of the bat issue," Lovullo said. "It's unfortunate that it happened. But there's nothing I want to say other than it's being investigated by Major League Baseball and they'll make good decisions, like they always have."

Crowe was one of several people who called Lovullo on Sunday night to make sure he was all right. Lovullo, who has been a coach or manager in the Indians' system for eight years, was able to joke about the incident the next day.

"In a couple years," he said, "the folklore of it will be that I was protecting Eric Wedge from hazardous objects and took the bullet for him."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.