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Cubs’ Ransom, Villanueva horrified by Happ incident

TampBay Rays' Desmond Jennings reacts while medical personnel attend ToronBlue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ after during second inning baseball

Tampa Bay Rays' Desmond Jennings reacts while medical personnel attend to Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ after during the second inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 7, 2013, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Happ was hit by a line drive off of Jennings' bat. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

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Updated: May 8, 2013 10:25PM

Cubs infielder Cody Ransom has never pitched, but more than once he reluctantly agreed to be an emergency reliever/sacrificial lamb in blowout games if necessary.

“I’m like, ‘Yeah,’ but in the back of your mind, you’re like, Would I throw the ball away where they can hit it back up the middle,” Ransom said, “or throw it in, where they can’t?”

And then he saw the horrific replays of former Phillies teammate J.A. Happ of the Blue Jays getting bloodied by a line drive to the head Tuesday night and getting taken from the field by stretcher.

“It’s scary,” Ransom said. “Being somebody that I know, it kind of resonated and just kind of makes you appreciate what’s going on [in your own life]. You never know with this game. Hopefully, he’s fine, and there’s no repercussions from it and he recovers well. . . . I heard he’s doing OK. That’s good to hear.”

Happ was released from the hospital Wednesday and even made jokes during a media conference.

But that doesn’t change the seriousness of a player-safety issue already gaining momentum in recent years, spotlighted again last September when Brandon McCarthy suffered skull fractures when struck by a liner.

The Happ incident struck at a personal level for several Cubs.

“I felt horrible,” said right-hander Carlos Villanueva, a Blue Jays teammate of Happ last year. “I’ve never seen it live and never had it happen to somebody close to me. . . . I spoke to a bunch of guys over there. . . . It’s scary. Hopes and prayers are with him and his family.”

Villanueva, who started for the Cubs less than 24 hours after his friend was rushed to a hospital, has something to say about what comes next for his position brethren on this issue.

As a member of the players union’s four-player executive board, Villanueva is part of the review process for any proposed changes in rules or protective gear.

He said he planned to make a call this week to learn if anything beyond the Kevlar cap lining already proposed has been brought to the table.

“I’m for something that’ll protect us, obviously,” he said. “I know guys sometimes are reluctant to change, but obviously if we can soften the blow on some of those, why wouldn’t we do it. I’ll probably know more in a couple of days.”

He’s also realistic about just how much might be possible.

“Hopefully, they’ll come up with something that won’t affect us pitching out there,” he said. “But it’s still such a fast game. What happens if a ball comes directly at your face? You can’t pitch with a mask on.”

Stewart’s situation

The Cubs’ efforts this week to recoup some of the $2 million they guaranteed third baseman Ian Stewart this year fell on the deaf ears of 29 other clubs as Stewart cleared waivers Wednesday and was outrighted off the 40-man roster.

It was a procedural move that does nothing to change Stewart’s address or current job description. He remains at Class AAA Iowa, where he was officially optioned Friday after his disappointing minor-league rehab assignment (4-for-44) with Iowa expired.

He was put on waivers after surprising — and ticking off — the front office by using his 72-hour reporting rights to leave the team for three days upon receiving the news that he’d been optioned.

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