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Sox get a scare as line drive hits Clement

Pitcher will be reevaluated today

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Red Sox pitcher Matt Clement appeared to have escaped serious injury after being struck in the head by a line drive during the Sox' 10-9 win over the Devil Rays last night at Tropicana Field and taken to a nearby hospital.

''I have spoken with Matt and his doctors in Florida," Sox medical director Thomas Gill said in a statement read by team media coordinator Peter Chase. ''Matt himself never lost consciousness and is in good spirits. The results of his CAT scan were negative. He appears to be doing well but will stay in the hospital overnight for precautionary purposes and will be reevaluated in the morning."

Clement, carted off the field on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to nearby Bayfront Medical Center, was ''alert, aware, and responsive," according to his agent, Barry Axelrod, who spoke twice on the phone with Sox general manager Theo Epstein in Boston in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

''Theo said he seemed aware, knew where he was, knew what had happened to him," said Axelrod, who is based in San Diego and was watching on television when the play occurred.

Clement spoke to his wife, Heather, who was back in Boston watching on television with their 4-year-old son, Mattix, according to Axelrod.

''He was kind of joking with her," Axelrod said. ''She said, 'All your runs scored.' He said, 'That figures.' He was worried about that.

''Mattix was sitting there watching on TV and saying, 'Daddy, c'mon. Daddy, c'mon.' Heather said it was all she could do to hold it together."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who returned to the clubhouse during the 11-minute stoppage in play to call Clement's wife and offer some words of reassurance, said he planned to go to the hospital as soon as he'd showered and dressed.

''It looks like he's OK," he said. ''The tests all came back OK. They're keeping him overnight, but hopefully everything will be OK and he'll go home with us."

The Sox are scheduled to return to Boston tonight after the game.

Clement was struck by a line drive hit by Devil Rays left fielder Carl Crawford in what appeared to be the area behind the right ear with one out in the third inning. The ball struck Clement with such force that it caromed into short left field, where it was retrieved by Manny Ramirez. Tampa Bay's Alex Gonzalez, who was on third base, scored on the play.

Clement covered his ear with both hands and lay motionless on his left side while medical personnel from both teams rushed to his aid, and the crowd fell silent.

Chang-Ho Lee, the Red Sox assistant trainer, was the first to attend to Clement. Head trainer Jim Rowe, who was in the clubhouse training room attending to outfielder Trot Nixon, who had left the game in the top of the third with a strained oblique muscle in his left side, quickly joined Lee, as did Devil Rays orthopedic physician Koco Eaton and team trainer Ken Crenshaw.

Emergency medical technicians were summoned, and Clement was gently turned onto his back and lifted onto the stretcher. Clement's eyes were open and he was conscious as he left the field, grasping the hand of Kevin Millar when the Sox first baseman extended it to him.

Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller, one of Clement's closest friends on the team and a former teammate on the Chicago Cubs, dropped to one knee on the side of the mound and appeared to be praying.

''Theo thought he was struck behind the ear as opposed to the temple," Axelrod said. ''Matt evidently was almost in a kind of shock. That's why he was lying motionless. I saw him move his feet by himself and his hands by himself.

''They're going to have to run a number of tests, a CAT scan and other tests to make sure he did not have a concussion or even a skull fracture, but Theo said it looked like for what had happened, it might be the best possible result. There were no immediate indications of big-time damage."

Clement was accompanied to the hospital by Eaton and Rowe, and Gill was monitoring the situation from Boston.

Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said that after the game, physical therapist Chris Correnti called Clement and several players spoke with him, including the Sox captain.

''It's fortunate that he didn't lose consciousness and stuff," said Varitek, who took Clement's hand before he was wheeled off the field. ''We just talked to him a few minutes ago. He sounds pretty good. That's encouraging."

According to neurosurgeons and other specialists in sports injuries, the negative results of the CAT scan mean it's unlikely Clement suffered bleeding, bruising, or fractures to the brain, but it doesn't rule out that he suffered a serious concussion.

''He should not be brought back to the field until all post-concussion symptoms are cleared," said Dr. Robert C. Cantu, a neurosurgeon at Emerson Hospital in Concord and co-director of the Neurological Sports Injury Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital. ''Having seen what he took [last night], it's pretty hard to imagine that he doesn't have some of the effects."

Effects could include recurring headaches, nausea, vomiting, light-headedness, vertigo, vision problems, balance, and a loss of recent memory, the specialists said. But Cantu said the results of the CAT scan likely mean Clement will not suffer long-term effects.

Clement, who turns 31 Aug. 12, came into the game as the team leader in wins with a 10-3 record and a 4.30 ERA. He was well on his way to an 11th win, the Sox having given him a 5-0 lead with two runs in the first and three in the third.

But in the bottom of the third, after striking out Pete LaForest, Clement gave up a double to Alex Gonzalez and Joey Gathright beat out an infield hit to first, Gathright reaching the bag just before Clement received a throw from Millar.

Crawford, an All-Star for the Devil Rays in 2004, hit Clement's next pitch directly back at the pitcher.

After the game resumed, the Devil Rays tied the score in the same inning against reliever Chad Bradford.

The incident brought back memories of a similar incident involving another Red Sox pitcher, Bryce Florie, who on Sept. 8, 2000 in Fenway Park was struck in the right eye and cheekbone by a line drive hit by Ryan Thompson of the New York Yankees and sustained a severe eye injury. Florie underwent multiple surgeries on his eye and to repair fractures of facial bones, but never regained full vision in his eye and did not pitch in the major leagues after 2001. He was out of baseball in 2003 and attempted a comeback with the Florida Marlins in 2004, but was cut in spring training after a bizarre incident in which he sustained facial cuts in what was described as a sleepwalking accident.

In 1975, former Red Sox pitcher Dick Pole, now the Cubs' bench coach, was struck in almost the same place as Florie by a line drive by Tony Muser of the Chicago White Sox and lost 90 percent of the vision in his eye.

David Abel of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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