Bruises on the left cheekbone and under the left eye are the only indications that Buffalo Bisons infielder Greg LaRocca endured probably the worst beaning in Dunn Tire Park history.
When LaRocca was writhing on the ground Monday morning after being drilled by a fastball from Indianapolis' Pasqual Coco, everyone in the park thought the worst.
"It didn't even break my face. Hit me square and didn't break anything," LaRocca cracked Friday prior to the Herd's rain-delayed 6-5 loss to the Richmond Braves. "I've broken so many bones I felt right away nothing was really wrong. My teeth still hurt so I'm not too excited about that but otherwise I'm all right."
LaRocca pinch hit in the eighth inning Thursday and flied out to center field on the first pitch he saw from Richmond left-hander Bobby Jones. He made his first start since the beaning at third base Friday in a game that didn't begin until 9:20 p.m. -- 2 hours, 15 minutes after the scheduled first pitch.
LaRocca, who entered the game batting .322, showed no ill effects. He went 3 for 4, including a three-run homer in the fifth off Richmond reliever Jamie Emiliano. It came one pitch after the right-handed Emiliano knocked LaRocca down with a similar high, hard delivery.
LaRocca broke his finger and missed eight games last year when hit by a Coco pitch while the right-hander was throwing for Syracuse. There was no history between the two. There certainly is now.
"I don't know what's up with him," LaRocca said. "Put it this way: When I see him again (the teams don't play anymore this year), the next time he comes up and in, something might happen. Seeing how he reacted with no remorse shows his character and what kind of person he is.
"I know it's the heat of the moment and he didn't mean to do it and all that stuff but that's another person. If you injure him, take him out of the game and end his career you'd at least think he'd say, 'I'm sorry.'. . . He's done this to me two years in a row and showed no remorse whatsoever."
"This is my livelihood and he's trying to take it away. I'm not going to let him keep sitting there laughing at me. He just stared at me. He didn't care."
LaRocca's first chance against a right-hander, the true test for a right-handed batter to stay in on pitches and not bail out, was his first-inning single Friday against starter John Ennis. He survived his close call in the fifth, responding by driving Emiliano's next pitch the opposite way over the fence in right for his third homer of the season.
LaRocca had no chance to respond Monday. He said he expected a curveball from Coco and instead got high, hard heat.
"I stayed in there and it didn't break," he said. "I just can't believe it hit me and not part of the helmet. The ear flap is right there and it didn't catch any of it. It just caught me. If I would have got hit here (pointing near the eye), I would have gotten shattered there and that's it. My career is done."
LaRocca had a 17-game hitting streak from April 15-May 2, the longest of the season for a Buffalo player. He said he doesn't expect any lingering effects from the beaning.
"That's the first time it's happened to me, the first time in the face in 20 years," LaRocca said, referring back to Little League. "I guess I'm tough. Hit me in the hand and it will break. Hit me in the face and I'm fine. Go figure."
Only about 300 fans stuck through the rain delay and the game didn't end until 12:18 a.m. There were 8,632 tickets sold. . . . Richmond built a 6-0 lead thanks mostly to a five-run second off Buffalo starter Mike Fyhrie (1-5). Wilson Betemit's two-run double was the key hit. . . . Buffalo catcher Victor Martinez left the game in the ninth inning after being struck on the top of the left knee by a foul ball. He was replaced by Dusty Wathan. . . . The series continues today at 2 (Radio 1520 AM) with Brian Tallet (4-1) scheduled to start for the Herd.