Cubs Minor Leaguer Receives Scare

Jesse Estrada (STAFF PHOTO/PAM DAVIS)

At 6-foot-8, Jesse Estrada is the tallest active pitcher in the Chicago Cubs' farm system. That was not such a good thing earlier this week when the right-hander took a line drive to the face while pitching in a game for Class AA Tennessee.

In the eighth inning of the Smokies' 6-1 victory at Chattanooga on Monday, Estrada was struck by a line drive off the bat of Lookouts starting third baseman Jerry Gil. The ball ricocheted off Estrada and bounced high in the air toward Smokies second baseman Nate Spears, who grabbed it for the final out in the inning.

Estrada at once drew the attention of teammates, coaches and trainers after the ball struck him on the right side of his face, less than an inch from his temple.

"My first pitch (to Gil) was a slider," Estrada said. "I tried to come back with another slider, then I tried going outside with a fastball. He reached out to get it and got all of it, right back up the middle. I tried putting my glove up and covering my face.

"I was conscious through the whole thing. I was more scared than anything. I didn't know what was going on."

Estrada eventually walked off the field on his own power en route to the visitor's clubhouse at AT&T Field. He says that he feels "pretty normal" now, although he has not yet been cleared to get back on the field.

"I didn't do anything (Tuesday) or (Wednesday). I just sat around and watched the games," Estrada said. "I didn't go out for BP or anything. They don't know how it's going to affect me, so we're just waiting around a few days."

Once he's able to return, Estrada said he won't be gun-shy.

"I've been hit a couple of times," he said. "Never in the head before now, but my first year I got hit in the knee. Last year at Daytona, I got hit in the ribs. I guess I'm a little bit of a magnet. They haven't taken me out for good yet, though."

In 10 games this season, Estrada is 2-3 with one save and a 4.70 ERA in 15 1/3 innings. He worked a scoreless eighth inning in the game against Chattanooga, retiring Gil for the final out in the inning.

"I'm glad I got a little out of the way and didn't really absorb the whole thing," he said of the play. "Thank God, I'm real lucky."

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