Reinstated and ready to pitch, Voth can make light of broken nose

It might not always show, but Austin Voth is a down-to-Earth guy. It’s especially hard to notice when the majority of his meetings with the media over the past year and a half have been over Zoom conference calls.

It’s always hard to get a read on someone’s personality through a computer screen. Not to mention, how often do we get to interact with a fringe starting pitcher turned long-relief arm out of the bullpen, nonetheless in person?

Usually, not that often.

But that situation presented itself Friday afternoon next to the Nationals dugout after Voth was reinstated from the 10-day injured list as one of the numerous roster moves made before the series-opening win over the Mets.

Voth-Treated-after-HBP-in-Face-Sidebar.jpgVoth had been on the IL since June 8 (retroactive to June 7) after getting hit in the face by a 90 mph fastball from Vince Velasquez in Philadelphia. It was a scary sight as Voth bled profusely from his nose, and later that day he underwent surgery to repair multiple fractures. Voth spent the night in Philadelphia while his teammates flew to Tampa Bay, and he waited to meet them back in Washington, D.C.

But while speaking with reporters face-to-face for the first time since 2020 spring training, Voth made the situation seem like it wasn’t as bad as it looked.

“It’s a broken nose, it’s not that bad,” Voth said in an on-field interview with reporters during Friday’s batting practice, still sporting a semi-blackened and somewhat bloodshot left eye. “It could’ve been a whole lot worse, like if I would have fractured any other bones in my cheek or anything up there. But I’m thankful it was just a nose.”

Voth said the surgery was actually the easy part. It was the recovery time and building his arm strength back up that was the most time-consuming.

“It was quick. It was probably, like, 15 minutes,” Voth said of the surgery. “Prep time was longer, just getting everything ready. But yeah, it was quick.

“I mean, obviously, a couple of days after the surgery, everything was kind of just downtime and healing and everything like that. As soon as the team came back here, I played catch, I think the second day they were back home, and just kept progressing, felt good. Didn’t have any headaches, didn’t have any bloody nose or anything like that. So yeah, I was just kind of day-by-day progressing and slowly building up, throwing bullpens. I threw a sim game, like, two days ago. Felt great, so yeah, wanted to get back.”

Usually after a seemingly gruesome injury, players don’t want to go back and watch the video, having, of course, already lived through it.

Not Voth.

“I watched the video a couple of times and just wanted to see if I was over the plate too much or what was the deal,” he said. “But the ball, as I decide to kind of get out of the way, I’m turning this way and the ball’s kinda chasing me and it hits my helmet and that’s when the helmet flies off, I kinda do a 360 (degree turn). But after it ricochets off the helmet, it hits my eyebrow and then directly to my nose. So my nose took the full force of the ball and everything.

“Felt numb as soon as I got hit, but I wasn’t in too much pain, which was weird. And then I saw the blood and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s not good.’ I was kinda thinking back to when (Mets outfielder Kevin) Pillar got hit and as soon as he took his hand away from his mouth, there was blood just dripping and just oozing out of his nose. And that kind of had the same thing that happened to me. But luckily for me, I only had the broken nose.”

Because Voth feels lucky that he only suffered a broken nose - the first time he’s ever broken a bone, he said - he’s able to make light of the situation, even when it’s the center of a practical joke by manager Davey Martinez.

“He calls me in and basically is like, ‘Yeah, you’re activated, but they need you to wear a face guard, face mask and everything,’ ” Voth said Martinez told him when he received the news he was being reinstated from the IL. “So I’m sitting there for a little bit and I’m thinking like, ‘What, I have to wear it? I don’t want to, but if I have to, I will.’ And then all of a sudden, he breaks his silence and he says, ‘I’m just kidding with you. You’re active.’ “

Martinez has already said that Voth is going back to the bullpen for the foreseeable future, avoiding any opportunities for the right-hander to have to step back in the batter’s box as a starter. But Voth says he’s ready to bat if needed. He just won’t try to bunt the next time he steps up to the plate.

“I don’t think I’ll be bunting anytime soon, but if I do get in the box, I’ll probably have to wear that face mask and definitely not bunting,” Voth said with a smile.

The Nationals are just focused on making sure Voth can pitch when they need him to, which could be sometime this weekend with today’s doubleheader. Martinez said they tested Voth on the mound to make sure he was ready to come off the IL before officially making the move.

“Yeah, we did some comebackers with him the other day just to make sure he was OK with it,” Martinez said during his Friday pregame Zoom session with reporters. “He was fine. Right now, he says he feels good, there’s no limitations. Obviously, we talked about him hitting. So I said, ‘Hopefully, we won’t get to that point. We just need you to pitch.’ But he says he feels good, there’s no issues and he’s ready to go.”

Voth even talked to Max Scherzer about what it’s like pitching with a broken nose and black eye.

“So a couple of days later when I came back to D.C., I saw him and I was like, ‘Hey, I have no idea how you pitched like two days later with a broken nose,’ ” Voth said. “And he’s like, ‘Dude, your situation was completely different from mine.’ So he kinda reassured me because I wasn’t feeling too hot those days. But yeah, I talked to him a little bit.”

Although Voth can joke about it now, at the moment, his parents and family members were obviously very concerned. His wife, who was in Philadelphia that weekend but returned to D.C. before the incident, ended up having to drive back up to stay with him in the hospital.

“They were worried, obviously,” Voth said of his parents. “My wife was worried, she was back home in D.C. She was actually there in Philly and since I didn’t know if I was starting or not, I told her to go home because she was driving two of the wives home, as well, back to D.C. So as soon as it happened, she was worried and everything. But then she came back out to Philly and saw me in the hospital and we stayed the night in Philly and everything like that. But I FaceTimed my parents from the hospital, showed them what happened and everything, told them I was OK. They’re just happy I’m all right.”

Voth is also grateful for the numerous well wishes he received from friends and strangers alike.

“I had tons of people reaching out to me, friends and family firstmost. And then just random people that I don’t even know were reaching out to me on Instagram, wishing I was OK and praying for me, everything like that. And I really appreciate that. That definitely lifted me up while I was kinda down.”

All things considered, the 28-year-old was very casual about the whole situation and just excited to be back with the team.

“I healed up pretty fast,” he said. “Like the day after surgery, my eye was almost completely shut, it was black and blue, it was hard to kinda look up, like my eyelids seemed heavy. But yeah, I mean, two days later I could open my eyes without having any issues or anything like that. And then the black and blue in my eye kinda went away. Then my nose started to feel a lot better, it wasn’t as sensitive. So it just progressed pretty well.”

Voth was asked about the current discussions around baseball about pitchers’ use of sticky substances in order to better grip the ball. Voth is in the peculiar situation of being both a pitcher and a victim of a dangerous hit-by-pitch to the face.

“I mean, I definitely think that pitchers need grip,” Voth said. “I think now we could see more instances of guys getting hit. I know the hit-by-pitch was up this year a lot. That’s kinda why they started to ... they said that even with all the grip stuff that guys were using, it still wasn’t affecting them, like you’re still hitting guys. But most of those, or maybe half of those, were on off-speed pitches. I’m afraid that if we’re not using grip, then there will be more fastball-related hit-by-pitches rather than off-speed.

“But we’ll see what happens. Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s going to be interesting.”

When asked if he has any new perspectives after the whole situation, Voth reverted back to the happy-go-lucky guy that he’s always been and just hasn’t been able to show as often.

“My nose is still straight. I’m still pretty good looking, I feel like,” Voth said with a laugh. “Glad that nothing occurred to my eye so I can see completely fine and everything. Some blood vessels popped and that’s why I have the red in my eye. I’m just happy to be OK.”

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