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Clement out of hospital

Pitcher a bit groggy after scary incident

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Look closely at Matt Clement, standing in a hallway outside the visitors' clubhouse in Tropicana Field yesterday, and you could see that the top of his right ear was cut and discolored. Just below his left ear, he wore a small medicated patch to protect against motion sickness on the flight back to Boston.

But remarkably, those were the only outward manifestations of the trauma the Red Sox pitcher experienced Tuesday night, when he was hit by a line drive that skipped across the top of his right ear and struck him in the head, the ball hitting his skull with such force that it caromed into short left field.

Clement was discharged yesterday afternoon from Bayfront Medical Center after the results of two CAT scans, the first taken upon his arrival, the second yesterday morning, were negative, showing no concussion or other neurological damage. Clement, after napping for an hour in the team's hotel, arrived at the ballpark in the sixth inning of the Sox' 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and departed with the team for Boston last night.

Red Sox medical director Thomas Gill said Clement would be examined last night upon his arrival, then evaluated again today and tomorrow at Massachusetts General Hospital. Clement will be cleared to play, Gill said, when he passes an exertional test with no symptoms.

''I think considering the circumstances it could be a lot worse than what happened," Clement said after yesterday's game. ''The Lord was definitely with me [Tuesday] night."

Clement said he felt a ''little groggy but in decent condition." He also said his ear and head were sore where the line drive by Carl Crawford of the Devil Rays hit him, and that his neck also was sore ''from the whiplash effect, I think."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who visited Clement in the hospital Tuesday night along with pitching coach Dave Wallace and bench coach Brad Mills, said that because the Sox have a day off today and another Monday, the pitching rotation could be jiggered in such a way that Clement could miss his next start and not impact the other pitchers in the rotation. Clement's next scheduled start was Tuesday night at home against the Kansas City Royals.

''Missing starts isn't really in my vocabulary, but I've got to be smart about it because it is my head," said Clement. ''It's not a calf or a knee or something like that, it's something you want to be careful with. As of now I'm planning on everything going fine. I'm not going to be stupid enough to sit here and say I'm going to make my next start. If it's my decision, that's what I want to do, but I have to be smart. I might be dizzy three days from now. We'll see how it works out."

Clement said he has been hit by batted balls in the leg and wrist, but never before in the head. With Tampa Bay runners on first and third in the third inning Tuesday night, Clement said he threw a sinker to Crawford, who swung and hit a liner directly back at the pitcher.

''I guess the strange thing is, I remember the whole thing," Clement said. ''I remember laying there and knowing what happened to me, but not panicking. The hardest part was I didn't really start getting scared until I was coming off the field and I started thinking about my wife and two boys and what might have been if it had been a different spot [where he was hit].

''When the ball comes at you that quick, it's a quick reaction. I saw a replay and I saw my glove flew up there after the ball got by my glove and hit me in the head. I just remember it ricocheting off my head, laying on the ground, and looking over toward first base, with kind of a ringing sensation in my ear."

Clement said it seemed like ''6,000 people" were telling him not to move. He recalled that first baseman Kevin Millar was the first player to reach him, followed shortly thereafter by Sox assistant trainer Chang-Ho Lee.

''It was more of a shock," Clement said. ''I wouldn't call it intense pain. It was more of a shock, knowing what happened, knowing it probably wasn't a pretty thing that went down. It was a serious hit to take that kind of blow to the head.

''I knew he hit the ball hard. It wasn't a changeup where you misjudge it with a glove. He hit it as hard as he's going to hit a ball. As soon as it hit my head, I knew it was serious. I'm thankful that I didn't panic about the situation."

Francona called Clement's wife, Heather, during the stoppage in play to update her on her husband's condition. She also heard from the minister of the church they attend at home in Butler, Pa., Boyd Smith of West Unity Community Church. ''There were a lot of prayer chains for me in Western Pennsylvania," Clement said.

Clement's former team, the Chicago Cubs, were in a rain delay in Wrigley Field and watching the game on television when it happened. The wives of many of his former teammates called Clement's wife to see how he was. Heather Clement and Clement's father, Paul, both called the hospital after he was taken there by ambulance.

Much to Clement's surprise, he said, after undergoing tests he wound up watching TV in his hospital room and went to sleep ''just like a normal night, only I was in a hospital bed."

The biggest hurdle Clement may face is his reaction to the possibility of being hit again. He said yesterday he doesn't expect to be afraid to take the mound again.

''As of right now, it's not a fear," he said. ''I'm not dreading having to do it again, but you never know till you're out there and go through the experience again.

''I'm looking forward to getting back out there and pitching, but I'm looking forward to getting everything healthy before I attempt it."

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