There is a swagger and air of confidence that never left, and that’s refreshing. With Diamondbacks’ reliever Evan Marshall, there was never a doubt about his destiny, his course and a direct path.
In sustaining one of the worst injuries a baseball player, or any athlete, can endure, Marshal never wavered from his determination to take the mound again. Saying “I’m a baseball player, and that’s what I do,” his recovery, and now his value to the Diamondbacks, has been nothing short of astonishing.
On Aug. 4 of last season, Marshall, pitching for the Diamondbacks’ AAA Reno minor league affiliate, was struck in the head with a line drive that was estimated at 105 miles per hour. As a result, Marshall suffered a skull fracture, and the injury was considered life-threatening. Immediately under medical attention, Marshall needed neurological attention to relieve raised intra-cranial pressure. As soon as news of Marshall’s injury reached the organization, Derrick Hall the team’s CEO, rushed to his side in El Paso, venue for the game, and made sure Marshall received the best medical attention, and his family received extended support and assistance.
“Right after it happen, I thought nothing to it, and I’ll be back on the mound in no time,” Marshall said. “I remember in the hospital talking to people and did not know who they were. When Derrick came, I didn’t recognize him.”
The impact was immediate. First, there was a long recovery at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. At the same time, there was a belief, stronger than ever, that Marshall thought he would make a full recovery and step back on the mound.
“His recovery was miraculous,” said manager Chip Hale. “With Evan, there were two major considerations. First, it was whether he would live, and also, would he have a productive life.”
In retrospect, the answer is yes, and yes. With team direction headed by medical director Dr. Christina Kwasnica at Barrow, Marshall made an inclusive recovery. By early this year, Marshall’s recovery was deemed complete by his medical team, and he exercised that passion to return to the mound.
During the recovery period, Marshall benefited from protocols already in place. Because of the close proximity of the mound to the plate at 60 feet, six inches, pitchers remain in the direct line of ferocious batted balls.
Last season, five major league pitchers were hit in the head by line drives, including the Diamondbacks’ Archie Bradley on April 28 off the bat of Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez. When former Arizona right-hander Brandon McCarthy was struck in the head on Sept. 5, 2012 by a line drive from Angels’ Erick Aybar while pitching for Oakland, the impact resulted in a skull fracture and brain contusion. Right after McCarthy’s injury, Major League Baseball instituted standards and procedures designed to address such trauma.
“After what happened to Brandon, there were important things put in place,’’ Marshall said. “There was the frequent use of CAT scans and more tests. That really saved me, because doctors, and the game of baseball, were really ready for this kind of thing.”
Because he spoken a great deal about the injury and its aftermath, Marshall said he is now de-sensitized. As a matter of life and routine, Marshall just wanted to pursue his quest to sport a major league uniform again. He came to spring training determined to achieve the goal, and surprised Hale and other decision-makers.
Appearing in 10 spring games, native of central California went 1-0 with 3.27 ERA. While velocity on his fast ball did not diminish from the mid-90s, Marshall developed a cutter and sinker to effectively keep hitters off-balance. The result was an extended stay in spring training, and Marshall was one of the last cuts before the Diamondbacks broke camp earlier this month.
“He was so confident in spring training,” Hale said of Marshall. “Sure, he was disappointed when we sent him down, but he was determined to get back. He proved us wrong.”
So far in the opening weeks of the season, all is good on planet Evan Marshall. Coming into Saturday’s home game with the Pirates, he appeared in four games since recalled from Reno on April 16, and has a 0.00 ERA.
Before Saturday’s game with Pittsburgh, the Diamondbacks recalled right-hander Enrique Burgos from AAA Reno. At the same time, reliever Silvino Bracho was sent back to Reno. Last season, Burgos went 2-2 with the Diamondbacks and a 4.67 ERA in 30 appearances.
In five appearances at Reno this season, Burgos was 1-0 and 0.00 ERA. In two games with the Diamondbacks in 2016, Bracho allowed three runs in 1.2 innings, and in Friday’s game against the Pirates, he allowed two runs in just 1/3 of an inning.
“(Bracho) has to pitch his way back here,” said manager Chip Hale before Saturday’s game with the Pirates. “He needs to get his swagger back, and needs to locate his pitches.”