Finding a Wright way to recover from concussion

(Elsa/Getty Images)
Eric D. Schabell
Contributing Writer

It was in August the last time we heard anything from Steven Wright, the Red Sox knuckleball pitcher.

That was when he was hit by a line drive during batting practice while finishing his workout in the Marlins outfield.

As Gorden Edes revealed, the ball hit Wright in the back of the neck right on the bone at the top of his spine and bruised the C-6 and C-7 vertebrae in his neck.

Could this have been avoided?

"I was almost done. They just started to hit. I didn't want to pay attention to their hitting. I tried to run away (when someone yelled out)," Wright said, "and ran right into it. If I had stopped and just stood there, it probably would have missed me by five feet. Instead I tried veering off to the fence, and it just smoked me."

He was told it would take six weeks just for the bruise to fully heal and he was diagnosed with a concussion. With that news, he kind of dropped off the radar for most Red Sox fans, going into a process that's defined by MLB to protect players from coming back too soon from brain trauma injuries.

Wright was a beacon of consistency in the Red Sox rotation, making nine starts, boasting a 5-4 record and a 4.09 ERA. The ball in his neck could not have come at a worse time for the rookie pitcher, who was making it very hard for the coaching staff not to make room for him in the rotation.

Instead, it has been six weeks since Wright has appeared in a game as the Red Sox placed him first on the seven-day concussion disabled list, then onto the 15-day DL as symptoms have persisted.

Edes reports that he has thrown several bullpens, but he has yet to pass the protocol required by MLB before being allowed back to active status. Most likely he won't be back in the remaining weeks of the 2015 season.

Wright was sent to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program, the same place that treated players like David Ross, Stephen Drew and Brock Holt. After talking with the medical team there, he realizes that it's far more important that he be healthy headed into the offseason.

"If you haven't had a concussion," Wright said, "it's hard to explain what it feels like to have one."

Wright did offer a vivid description of the effect the concussion had on his balance.

"When I had my eyes closed," he said, "it was like I was on a boat in the Bering Sea."

Ross, who had multiple concussions with the Red Sox, had talked about how his personality changed, and he found himself reacting with anger toward his wife, kids, even strangers while he was driving.

"I was the opposite," Wright said. "I wasn't even there. I was just really passive. Kind of there, but not really alert. I felt I was fine. That's when my wife [Shannon] realized there was something wrong, especially when I was with my daughter [Ella]. Usually I love to play, and I was like acting she wasn't even there."

Most of the symptoms Wright has been dealing with, manager Torey Lovullo said, have improved markedly. The balance issues he was having have vanished, but headaches have been a problem lately.

Wright has been on the disabled list just twice in his career. Once came before the 2014 season, when he sustained a sports hernia while preparing for the season that cost him all of spring training and set him back a couple more months. The priority for now is to get healthy, give it as much time as it needs and be ready for 2016 Spring Training.

One upside to the timing of this injury is that Wright was able to be around and support his wife during the birth of his son, Lucas. Sometimes there are more important things to take care of than baseball.

While Wright is getting ready for 2016, we leave you with a look back to Miami this year, where he dazzled. This is what we can expect from a health and maturing knuckleballer that seem ready to break out into the Red Sox rotation.

Post a comment or via twitter @erics_redsox with your thoughts.

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