Los Angeles Angels outfielder Taylor Ward has broken his silence regarding a gruesome hit-by-pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 29, where he was struck in the face by a 92 mph sinker from right-hander Alek Manoah.
A few weeks later, Ward underwent season-ending surgery to repair a trio of facial fractures, capping the 29-year-old’s sixth big-league campaign at just 97 games.
While speaking to The Athletic’s Sam Blum, the 2015 first-round selection revealed that doctors needed to reconstruct his face after Manoah’s pitch fractured his orbital bone, a bone around his temple, and another by his jaw.
Taylor also says that the hit by pitch did not impact his eyesight or result in a concussion.
The incident, however, required three plates to be inserted into Ward’s head. A third was deemed necessary after tests showed that his skull had become loose.
“Everyone’s story is different,” Ward said. “I feel like I’ve come to a reason why this happened. And I’m able to, at least standing right here — I hope when I step in the box as things move forward, (I’m able to) move past this.”
Ward wasn’t permitted to consume solid foods following his surgery, limiting him to just liquids and broth. The Angels right-hander also couldn’t breathe out of his nose due to the four-inch splints in each nostril, forcing him to become “a mouth breather.”
While it’s been over a month since his procedure, Ward is still unable to drink through a straw, while it'll still be another three weeks until he can blow his nose. Ward is also awaiting clearance to resume basic tasks on his own, but did fly home to Arizona earlier this week where he’ll continue rehabbing.
“It’s definitely weird, and it puts you in an interesting spot,” Ward said. “But like anything, you adapt. You think about it initially, and then you don’t think about it anymore as days go on.”
The fastball that hit Ward below his left eye also broke his nose, which doctors couldn’t reconstruct fully due to the steep curve it left on his bridge. He has put a positive twist on it, though, referring to it as a “badge of honour.”
“I think it’s kind of good for me to have that too,” Ward said. “Not that I want to be reminded of what happened. But I think it is kind of a cool story. These things happen, and it’s OK with me.”
Upon impact, Ward fell immediately to the ground in immense pain as Angels trainers rushed onto the field and quickly shifted into crisis mode. He was later carted off before heading to the examination room.
Scary moment as Taylor Ward takes an Alek Manoah pitch up high. pic.twitter.com/4BJZ77GCgA
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) July 29, 2023
There, Manoah — who was pulled from the contest following the HBP — waited outside to apologize for what happened. That would ultimately come via text message, which Ward received after being ushered into the back of an ambulance to a nearby hospital.
Despite the brutal injury, Ward says he holds no animosity toward Manoah.
“I don’t know how it will affect him,” Ward said. “Everyone is going to have a different way of getting past this. I hope he can, and I wish him the best moving forward.”
Toronto’s Opening Day starter has endured a rollercoaster season thus far, which currently finds him on the Inactive List as he builds up his stamina at triple-A Buffalo. The 25-year-old owns a 5.87 ERA in 19 starts and has been optioned to the minors twice.
As for Ward, he intends to wear a protective C-flap on his batting helmet moving forward once he is medically cleared to resume baseball activities.
It’ll likely require an adjustment period, as will feeling comfortable in the batter’s box again, but he’s looking forward to reuniting with his teammates in the future.
“(I’ll) try to basically get as comfortable as I can and forget what happened,” said Ward. "Put that in the back of your mind, and let other thoughts take control.”
Ward is among a group that includes Giancarlo Stanton, Kevin Pillar and Justin Turner — whom he spoke at length with about his injury afterward — as recent players to suffer scary injuries after being struck in the face.