Blue Jays pitching coach Bruce Walton was struck in the dugout by a broken bat during the first inning of Thursday's 8-3 victory over Seattle. The bat was headed for Walton's head, but he was able to get his arms up in time to block its path.
Walton was diagnosed with a contusion on both of his forearms, avoiding a potentially serious injury. Still, the frequency with which maple bats tend to shatter has manager John Farrell thinking changes should be made.
"If there's not a way to improve the current condition of them," Farrell said when asked if they should be banned. "I think it's a matter of time before someone else gets impaled.
"When there were only ash bats, was there a problem? I say no more."
Maple bats are legal, but have a tendency to shatter much more often than their ash counterparts. Some players prefer maple because it's a harder wood and they like the way the ball comes off the bat. But there's also the increased danger of shards causing serious injuries on the field.
In Walton's case, the danger was expanded to the dugout as well. He avoided major harm, but he is still not able to bend his left elbow without a lot of discomfort. His right arm is feeling better but is still severely bruised.
"I saw the barrel blow up, figured the barrel went on the playing field side, and I was staring at it and I was like, 'Oh, God.' I put my hands up and took the hit," Walton said. "I was very fortunate that I got my hands up.
"Obviously, I was a bit scared after when I was down on the ground, because it did hurt. It had some power behind it. I was like, 'Oh, wow, what was that?'"
The problem isn't exactly a new one and almost every game, there are at least a couple incidents of shattered bats. Most of the time, it doesn't cause a major incident, but then there are situations like Thursday night.
"We see it every night, where there are near-misses," Farrell said. "And people openly talk about it at field level, and you see it routinely.
"It clearly has the ability to affect the outcome of the game as well. When we talk about a play not made because of bats that are flying through the air that pre-maple bats weren't, it has an effect on the game."