LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Surgeons could not save the left eye of Braves minor league manager Luis Salazar, who was hit in the face by a foul ball last week.
The former major league player had the eye removed during surgery Tuesday, the second procedure on the eye and third overall surgery Salazar had since being hit by a foul ball off the bat of Braves catcher Brian McCann in a spring-training game Wednesday.
“Despite the best efforts of really skilled eye specialists here in Orlando, they were not able to save his eye,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said Wednesday. “He had surgery yesterday and they removed the eye.”
Wren said Salazar, 54, was expected to be released from Orlando Regional Medical Center by Thursday and return home to Boca Raton, Fla. He will reevaluated in one week in Orlando, and it’s uncertain if he will need additional facial surgery.
Doctors have told him and the Braves that he could be back managing in four to six weeks. Salazar is in his first year in the Braves organization and was hired to manage the high-Class A affiliate in Lynchburg, Va.
He had been serving as an extra coach on the major league staff during spring training.
“As the doctor told us from the very beginning,” Wren said, “in the big picture – and that’s what we always have to keep in mind – in the big picture this is a really good outcome. He’s alive…. He’s alive.”
Salazar sustained multiple facial fractures and was knocked unconscious for at least 20 minutes after being hit while he stood against a dugout railing during a Grapefruit League game against St. Louis.
He was hit flush in the left side of his face and knocked out immediately, then tumbled several feet and landed face-first on the dugout floor. Salazar was airlifted to the hospital and didn’t regain consciousness and resume breathing on his own until he was in the helicopter.
Braves including Chipper Jones, Rodrigo Lopez and first-base coach Terry Pendleton said it was the worst injury they had seen in baseball. As Salazar lay motionless on the dugout floor and the Champion Stadium crowd sat in stunned silence, players and coaches standing around the dugout feared the worst.
At that time, many of them thought Salazar might die.
McCann was devastated and took himself out of the game immediately after the first-inning incident, so that he could go the hospital and be with Salazar. He spent hours at the hospital with Salazar and his family.
Braves players heard reports the next day that Salazar would probably lose the eye. Many of them had gotten to know the amiable Salazar during the first weeks of camp, and his condition has been on their minds since the incident.
“He’ll come back for a checkup in one week,” Wren said. “Once he does that, they’ll give him his program as to when he’ll come back to work.
“The thought is that after he comes back in a week [to be reexamined] he’ll be able to come back out to the complex and start kind of reintegrating, [possibly] get in a golf cart and kind of watch his team go through their programs and play their games. Then slowly, as he regains his strength regains, get back to the point where he takes over his team.
“But doctors have told us and him there’s no reason why in the next four to six weeks he can’t go ahead and manage his team as anticipated.”