Notes: Bucs reflect on Freel

Notes: Bucs reflect on Freel

PITTSBURGH -- A day after one of the most frightening on-the-field incidents of the season --Monday's collision between Cincinnati outfielders Ryan Freel and Norris Hopper -- some of the Pirates' players were still talking about the part of the play that was overlooked amid the concern for Freel's health.

Did Freel actually catch the ball after his head collided with right fielder Norris Hopper's elbow as the two tracked Humberto Cota's line drive to right-center? Or did Hopper place it in his glove as Freel lay on the warning track, unresponsive?

In the Pittsburgh clubhouse on Tuesday, some had no question about what had really happened.

"No, [Hopper] put it back in," said catcher Ronny Paulino. "No doubt. No doubt."

Others had no clue.

"I hadn't seen that," said a puzzled Jason Bay when asked about the play. "Huh ... [It was] pretty heads up I guess."

And at least one didn't care to know.

"I don't want to see it," said Cota shaking his head. "I had a one-in-a-million chance to get an inside the park home run. That's the only shot I got with my blazing speed. If it happened that way then you have to give it to Hopper, he really played it cool. I don't want to see it."

Replays clearly indicated that Hopper picked up the ball and put it into Freel's glove when Hopper ran over to check on his teammate.

"The only way on a play like that, you would have any chance of getting complete resolution of something like that, would be to have something like the NFL with a challenge or something," said manager Jim Tracy.

Second-base umpire Adam Dowdy, who was umpiring his first Major League game on Monday, made the out call when he reached Freel and found the ball in the center fielder's glove. During the lapse of time between Freel's head hitting the ground and Dowdy reaching the warning track, Hopper had time to slide the ball, which was lying about a foot away from Freel, into his glove.

Though some of them did roll their eyes at Hopper's deception, the Pirates were still more concerned about Freel's health than they were interested in blaming Monday's 4-0 loss on the third-inning play.

Tracy even shrugged his shoulders and simply decided to compliment the Reds outfielder on a heads-up play.

"You have to give credit where credit's due," Tracy said. "It's pretty astute you know. In a lot of cases, you'd probably pick it up and throw it in."

Knock out: The Reds might want to invest in some shields or some kind of protection when the Pirates come to town next time. Or they could at least put a tracking device on Cota to ensure the safety of their players.

As Cota stood in the Pirates' dugout on Monday afternoon watching medical staffs put a neck brace on Freel, lift him onto a stretcher and drive him off the field, it brought back flashbacks of September 16, 2005.

"It's always scary to see a guy on the field being unconscious," said the Pirates catcher after Monday's game. "There must be something with me and the Reds and knocking them out."

The Reds and Pirates were playing in the first game of a doubleheader at PNC Park back on that September day when Cota hit a routine grounder to third baseman Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion's throw, however, pulled first baseman Sean Casey off the bag, and as Cota tried to elude his tag, the Pittsburgh catcher's left elbow hit Casey in the face, right under his right eye.

Casey, who is now with the Detroit Tigers, lay motionless for about 20 seconds after collapsing onto the field. Like Freel was on Monday, Casey was carted off the field after paramedics also put a neck brace on him. Casey suffered a Grade 2 concussion in the incident.

Cota said that he and Casey later joked about the incident when the two became teammates after the Pirates traded for the first baseman prior to the 2006 season.

"When I heard he got traded it was kind of funny," Cota said. "I popped into him at Spring Training and he kind of just jumped in and was joking with me about how I'm on your side now."

Doumit down no more: Ryan Doumit took live batting practice for the second straight day and also participated in the team's fielding drills before Monday's game.

Doumit, who was knocked out of Friday's game against Cincinnati when he took a backswing to the head, will once again be available for the Pirates off the bench and seems to be very close to being able to return to the starting lineup.

Though Doumit pinch hit for the Pirates on Monday, Tracy wasn't fully convinced that he was fully healthy until he saw him around the clubhouse on Tuesday.

"I still don't think he was completely over the top yesterday," Tracy said. "He still seemed to me yesterday to be a little bit reserved. He looks like Ryan Doumit today. He looks to me like his energy is all the way back."

Wednesday would seem like an opportune time for Tracy to put Doumit back in the starting lineup with San Diego sending right-hander Chris Young to the mound. Doumit is hitting .353 against right-handed pitching this season.

Bucs bits: The Pirates have come to terms with right-hander Devin Copley, a 43rd round selection by Pittsburgh in last year's draft... The eighth-inning run Damaso Marte allowed was the first run he has allowed in more than a month. After allowing one run in a 7-3 loss to the Dodgers on April 21, Marte went his next 13 appearances without surrendering a run. During the 10 2/3 innings the Pittsburgh lefty pitched during that span, he allowed, he allowed only four hits and five walks.

On deck: Game two of the three-game set between the Pirates and Padres will be played Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. ET at PNC Park. The Pirates will send lefty Paul Maholm (2-6, 5.43 ERA) to the mound against San Diego's Chris Young (5-3, 2.70 ERA).

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