Not many can exactly understand what Boston Red Sox newcomer Justin Turner is going through after taking a fastball to the face in Monday’s spring training game against the Detroit Tigers.
But former Red Sox and current Atlanta Braves outfielder Kevin Pillar can put himself in Turner’s cleats better than the vast majority of big leaguers because he has experienced an almost identical situation himself.
Pillar was dealt the gruesome injury in May of 2021 while playing with the New York Mets. A 94.5 mph pitch from Braves pitcher Jacob Webb hit Pillar squarely in the face, and like Turner, sent him down to the dirt with blood pouring out.
Pillar, who spent 30 games with the Red Sox in 2020, certainly can empathize with Turner and also offered the 38-year-old some advice while speaking with NESN’s Tom Caron before the Braves took on the Red Sox in an exhibition contest Tuesday evening.
“I know how tough it is on him. I know how tough it is on his teammates, his loved ones watching from home. It’s a scary moment,” Pillar told Caron. “I’ve gone through it before. I know he’s going to be OK. My best advice to him is get back into the box as soon as possible. Remind yourself how long you’ve been playing this game, and it might have been the only time it’s ever happened.
“That was kind of my mindset after it happened is I’ve been playing this game a long time since I was a little kid. Never been hit in the face. The chances of it happening are very slim. It is part of the game unfortunately. But I felt like the quicker I could get back in the box I could put it behind me.”
Pillar missed two weeks of game action due to the injury as he suffered multiple nasal fractures, and in that sense, Turner ended up faring better than the veteran outfielder. Turner needed 16 stitches according to his wife, Kourtney, but didn’t sustain any fractures.
There’s been no timetable set yet for Turner’s return but he’s been in good spirits and shared a thankful message on social media early on Tuesday.
Turner was in line to be the Red Sox’s everyday designated hitter in his first season in Boston. And if he heeds Pillar’s advice, there’s a chance he could be in the lineup when the Red Sox open their season on March 30 against the Baltimore Orioles.
Pillar’s full interview on “Spring Squeeze” with Caron can be seen exclusively with NESN 360.