John Clay: Sidelined by freak injury, ex-Cat Cowgill eager to jump back into pennant race

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJuly 19, 2014 

Collin Cowgill insists it wasn't as painful as it looked.

It sure looked painful in that widely circulated wire service photo in which blood was gushing from Cowgill's nose when last Saturday night against the Texas Rangers, the Los Angeles Angels outfielder squared to bunt and took a fastball right in the face.

The result was a broken nose, a broken left thumb and a trip to the 15-day disabled list for the former University of Kentucky star, though he's likely to be sidelined four to five weeks.

"Everything is going good. The swelling is almost gone. My eye is still a little black and blue," Cowgill said Friday from his family's home in Lexington where he is recuperating. "I really haven't had a significant amount of pain."

Seriously?

"It isn't as bad as it may have looked and felt that night," Cowgill said. "If it wasn't for my broken thumb, and if I could get this brace off my nose, I'd be ready to go."

This has been a dream season — until last Saturday night anyway — for the 28-year-old. After bouncing from Arizona in 2011 to Oakland in 2012 and the New York Mets in 2013, the former Henry Clay High School star has found a home with the Angels.

"It has been incredible," Cowgill said. "I love the Angels. I love the organization. I can't say enough about the front office and everything they've done for me."

When Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun were injured early in the year, Cowgill got his chance to start "30-35 games for the first time in my major-league career," he said.

Not only was Cowgill ready, he produced, hitting .293 in April, .284 in May and .297 in June.

When he came to the plate Saturday against Texas pitcher Matt West, Cowgill was batting .277 with five homers and 16 RBI while basically platooning with Calhoun in right field.

"Before I went to the circle, (Manager Mike Scioscia) told me that if Hank (Conger) got on, I should bunt it down the first-base line," Cowgill said. "Hank ended up hitting a double. So it was a perfect time for me to bunt him over to third. We were up 5-2 in the eighth so it would be a significant run."

Cowgill squared and "I got a fastball in the nose," he said. "It just sailed up on me. There was nothing I could do."

Though he doesn't really remember doing so, Cowgill tried to block the 95 mph fastball with his bat, which (a) allowed the bat to get a piece of the ball and (b) was how Cowgill broke his thumb.

"I think I was fortunate that I did get the bat up there," he said. "It may have slowed it down just a little bit."

Cowgill never lost consciousness. After trainer Adam Nevala and physical therapist Bernard Li addressed the bleeding, Cowgill was taken up the tunnel and into the clubhouse where he was examined by the Rangers' team doctor, who stitched up Cowgill's nose.

Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto was there every step of the way, said Cowgill, and called his parents, back home in Kentucky watching on television, to tell them everything was OK.

Cowgill was taken to the hospital on Saturday night for X-rays, then back to the hotel at 3 a.m. Sunday to let the swelling subside. Cowgill underwent surgery in Dallas on Monday morning. He was allowed to leave 24 hours later and was in Lexington by Tuesday afternoon.

He's been relaxing and improving since, though Cowgill said he wasn't quite ready to get his picture taken.

"I haven't sent it to anybody or anything." he said.

Nor has he watched a replay of the at-bat.

"I don't think I want to see it," he said. "Maybe sometime next week."

West, the Rangers pitcher, did phone the Angels clubhouse immediately after the game to check on Cowgill's condition. He wasn't the only one. Over the past week, Cowgill said he has been flooded with phone calls, texts and Twitter messages checking on his condition.

"It's been overwhelming and very humbling," he said. "The support I've gotten has been amazing."

He is returning to Los Angeles on Sunday, but will remain on the disabled list until at least July 28.

As you might imagine, he is anxious to get back.

"I can't wait to go battle with my boys, my teammates," said Cowgill, whose Angels entered the second half with the second-best record in the major leagues. "We really believe we have something special going on.

"My thumb feels better every day. I'm scheduled to see the team doctor Monday and we'll get a better idea then and go from there. But I don't see me missing too much more time."

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com.

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