This MLB Pitcher Almost Died Last Year. Here’s How His First Trip Back To The Mound Turned Out

William Boyd Contributor
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Just 14 months after Daniel Poncedeleon was struck by a line drive that almost killed him, he pitched seven no-hit innings for the St. Louis Cardinals against the Cincinnati Reds on Monday.

There was quite a bit of uncertainty going into his first start about how he would pitch because of the injury, but he surely did not disappoint. Poncedeleon was taken out in the seventh inning after throwing 116 pitches. He struck out three batters and walked three. A hit was later allowed by the Cardinals, breaking up the no-hitter for Poncedeleon.

On May 9th, 2017, Poncedeleon was pitching in Triple-A Memphis when he was hit by a line drive on his right temple. He was quickly carted off the field by the medical crews, but the situation was much worse than they imagined. Poncedeleon was diagnosed with a fracture and a epidural hematoma, which means bleeding in the brain. Surgery was required to relieve pressure on the brain, and intensive rehab was needed to get back to a normal life.

In the expansion era (since 1961), Poncedeleon has the fourth longest no-hit bid of a pitcher in his MLB debut, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

When in triple-A, Poncedeleon had a 9-3 record with a 2.15 ERA and 103 strikeouts. He most recently had just pitched a one-hitter in the minor leagues in the start before he came to the majors. The Cardinals called him up last month, but this was his first major league appearance.

Cardinals interim manager Mike Schildt talked about just how impressive it is for Poncedeleon to come back from this type of injury, saying, “Talk about a comeback story,” manager Mike Shildt said. “We’re in the process of one here (so) it’s only fitting that maybe he’s a part of that.

“I can’t even imagine what he dealt with, and there for a while it was touch and go just from a lifestyle standpoint, quality of life for him.To be so dogmatic with his mindset that, ‘I’m going to pitch again and I’m going to pitch in the big leagues.’ We’re going to see that sooner than later. It’s impressive.”

Poncedeleon said his confidence did not really ever waiver when it came to him potentially coming back to the majors. He said in an interview with Fox Sports Midwest, “I never thought I wasn’t going to play. I was asking my wife, ‘When I am going to get on the bus to go back?’ and the bus already left weeks before. From there, I was just asking questions of how I could get back.”

Unfortunately, despite all of his efforts, he earned a no-decision in the game tonight. The Reds had a ninth inning rally that helped defeat the Cardinals 2-1. But no one in that organization will be forgetting his story of fighting to get back out on the field any time soon. The fact that he came back from almost near death to pitch a near no-hitter in a major league game is the stuff of legends. You just cannot make these things up. That is why sports is so magical, because of stories like these.

Well done, Daniel.