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Cubs’ Marlon Byrd recalls scary moments after beaning

BOSTON MA - MAY 21:  MarlByrd #24 Chicago Cubs reacts after he was hit head by pitch second inning

BOSTON, MA - MAY 21: Marlon Byrd #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after he was hit in the head by a pitch in the second inning against the Boston Red Sox on May 21, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Tonight the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox are wearing replica uniforms from 1918. Before this series, the two teams haven't played at Fenway Park since the 1918 World Series. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\GYI0064846358.jpg

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Updated: August 28, 2011 12:22AM

BOSTON — Marlon Byrd’s first instinct was to try to get up and go to first base. Then he tried to look up.

‘‘I started kicking because I realized I couldn’t see out of my eye,’’ the Cubs center fielder said of the frightening moments after ­being struck in the face by a pitch Saturday night.

By the time a trainer got to him, Byrd was on his feet. Then he started yelling, ‘‘I can’t see out of my left eye!’’

That was the worst, he said —worse than the fractures in his cheekbone that put him on the disabled list Sunday.

‘‘I couldn’t see out of my left eye right when it hit me for about five minutes,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s the only thing that bothered me. The pain didn’t bother me at all. Once I started seeing again, I was ready to calm down.’’

Despite the fractures and significant swelling, Byrd seemed remarkably well after rejoining teammates at Fenway Park during the Cubs’ 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Sunday night. He had stayed overnight in an area hospital for tests and observation.

Byrd has more exams scheduled today in Chicago, and doctors might not be able to say definitively if he’s out of the woods until the swelling subsides in a few days. Byrd said he has bruising at the attachment in the back of his eye.

But he and teammates breathed heavy sighs of relief on a day when Byrd’s well-being far overshadowed the prospects of the nationally televised game.

‘‘When you see an injury like that, a ball hits you in the face, I mean, you want to be as optimistic as possible, but all you think about is the worst,’’ said first baseman Carlos Pena, who rushed from the clubhouse after the game Saturday to visit Byrd in the hospital.

‘‘When I got there, I was impressed to see him sitting [up]. I’m so relieved. I’m so thankful that I saw him and that was way better than I thought he was going to be.’’

‘‘I’m very lucky it didn’t get my eye. I thought it was going to be a lot worse,’’ said Byrd, who suffered a sizeable gash below his eye. ‘‘An inch to the right or left, maybe it gets my full eye. As long as I can see, I consider myself lucky.’’

Byrd, who spoke to the media after the game Sunday, said he feels confident about his long-term prognosis after getting good news throughout his flurry of tests — including 20-20 eyesight.

Still, he said he has no idea how long to expect the fractures to heal or when he’ll be able to return.

‘‘Sometime this season,’’ he said. ‘‘Whenever I heal. I don’t want to go out there and make it worse.’’

The incident was so frightening that several Red Sox players were seen cringing in the field, and Pena said the Sox’ Kevin Youkilis, Jed Lowrie and David Ortiz continually asked for updates on Byrd’s condition throughout the game. Aceves told reporters he tried unsuccessfully to reach Byrd on Saturday night.

Byrd said he hadn’t heard from Aceves and added that he didn’t blame the pitcher.

‘‘I know it wasn’t intentional,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s part of baseball.’’

Reed Johnson, who entered Sunday batting .392 in part-time duty, is the every-day center fielder in Byrd’s absence.

The Cubs called up pitcher Justin Berg for the bullpen day they faced Sunday in the wake of scratching starter Matt Garza because of elbow soreness. But they likely will add a bench player from the minors by Tuesday for the start of a three-game series against the New York Mets, manager Mike Quade said.

‘‘You just hope you’re able to pick up where he left off. It’s big shoes to fill,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘We’ll definitely miss him in our lineup. But we know that he’s going to do whatever he can to get back here, I’m sure, sooner than everybody thinks he’s going to.’’

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