Steven Souza Jr. left in the third inning of Friday’s game with a jammed left shoulder, half an inning after an ugly scene in which he slammed into the right field wall trying to rob a home run allowed by Stephen Strasburg.
Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman hit a ball to right field in the bottom of the second and Souza raced toward the wall. Souza jumped with his right foot out, slammed into fence in front of the scoreboard and the left side of his face hit the yellow padding on top of the wall.
Souza crumpled to the ground and fell on his back, a scary sight. The loud thud of 6-foot-4, 225-pound Souza hitting the wall could be heard from stands. (Be warned: the animated gif is cringe worthy.)
“I’m okay,” Souza said. “I’m doing fine. I was just running full-speed, had a full-on collision. But it seems to be nothing serious. So that’s a good sign, good news to hear.”
Souza, a Nationals outfield prospect called up with Nate McLouth on the disabled list, was making starting in place of Jayson Werth, who was resting two nagging injuries.
Head trainer Lee Kuntz raced out to right field instantly and Manager Matt Williams followed right after him. They checked on Souza, who, Williams said, was well enough to remain in the game after evaluation.
“Because of the speed I was running, that’s what kind of scared me: the impact with the speed I was running at,” Souza said. “My head’s fine. Everything’s fine. Just jammed it pretty hard. Give it a couple days rest, and I’ll be OK.”
Williams said he didn’t know yet if a roster move was needed for Souza, but that would depend on how he reacts to treatment and rest. Werth is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday barring setbacks, Williams said.
Souza took his at-bat in the top of the third inning and made hard contact, lining a ball at shortstop Ramiro Pena. But in the bottom half of the inning, Williams took Souza out of the game, Bryce Harper shifted to right field and Kevin Frandsen took over in left.
“I was hoping it would go away, just keep going away, try to play through it,” Souza said. “Once I got to swinging, that aggravated it a little bit. So I didn’t want to start giving away ABs just to be a prideful player. I’d rather have someone in there, Franny, who can give quality ABs. Like I said, I was trying to play through it, wait for it to hopefully calm down. And it just didn’t work out.”
Right field at Turner Field has been trouble for Nationals outfielders. Before he slammed into the wall at Dodger Stadium in May 2013, Harper scraped his left side against the wall trying to rob a home run, an injury he regrets not tending to then. The fence
“It’s just tough because when you’re going full speed, you can’t plant your foot on chain link,” Souza said. “It just kind of gives with your foot. So your speed doesn’t stop. You go up against a padded wall, you can kind of climb up and jump with it. Those chain links, they just go with you. So there was no slowing down.”
Friday was only Souza’s second big league start and was only his second time playing at Turner Field.
“I think the more you learn those places, the more you’ll learn how to do it,” he said. “But the same thing, it’s just a reaction thing. I’m trying to go after the ball, I’m trying to help my pitcher out. It just worked out on the wrong end for me.”