Cardinals' Daniel Poncedeleon throws 7 no-hit innings in MLB debut year after suffering brain trauma

This time last year, Daniel Poncedeleon was dealing with the aftermath of a terrifying injury suffered when he took a line drive to the head while pitching in a minor league game.

Poncdeleon throws 116 pitches without giving up a hit

On Monday, the 26-year-old got called up by the St. Louis Cardinals and pitched seven no-hit innings against the Cincinnati Reds in his MLB debut before being pulled by manager Mike Shildt. The Cardinals held a 1-0 lead when Harrison Bader pinch-hit for Poncedeleon in the eighth inning.

The St. Louis bullpen couldn’t hold on to the no-hitter or the win as the Reds rallied for five hits in the final two innings in a 2-1 Cincinnati win.

Despite the Cardinals’ loss, Poncdeleon’s MLB debut was stellar by any standards as he struck out three and walked three on 116 no-hit pitches, 75 of which went for strikes.

Impressive debut comes on heels of terrifying brain injury

The performance is a remarkable story after Poncedeleon required brain surgery to relieve pressure on his brain from the May 9, 2017 head injury suffered while pitching for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.

He was struck in the right temple when then-Cubs prospect Victor Caratini hit a rope toward the pitchers mound.

Poncedeloen immediately went to the ground after being struck by the ball before trainers and concerned teammates surrounded him on the mound. Medical staff attended to Poncedeloen for almost nine minutes on the field before loading him on a stretcher and driving him off the field on a cart.

“I knew I got hit in the head,” Poncedeleon told the The Chicago Tribune. “I just didn’t think it was that bad. I told our trainer I should get up and walk to the locker room.”

An ambulance rushed Poncedeloen to the hospital, where he felt woozy and began vomiting, according to The Tribune.

“This is pretty bad,” Poncedeleon said he remembered thinking at the hospital. “By that point my brain wasn’t working very well. It gets kind of splotchy after that.”

Daniel Poncedeleon threw seven no-hit innings in his MLB debut for the St. Louis Cardinals Monday, 14 months after a line drive to the head led to surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. (AP)
Daniel Poncedeleon threw seven no-hit innings in his MLB debut for the St. Louis Cardinals Monday, 14 months after a line drive to the head led to surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. (AP)

Poncedeleon required emergency brain surgery

Poncedeleon had suffered a fracture and an epidural hematoma, or bleeding in the brain. Doctors performed emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain. Poncedeleon spent weeks in intensive care and months of rehab before moving back to his normal routine and returning to baseball.

“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,” Schildt told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “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 quickly returned to baseball

Poncedeleon has been impressive in his return to baseball, posting a 2.15 ERA and a 1.239 WHIP with 103 strikeouts in 92 innings en route to a 9-3 record with the Red Birds.

He arrives to a Cardinals team in the throes of transition, less than two weeks after they fired long-term manager Mike Matheney. St. Louis dropped to 50-50 with Monday’s loss and continued its slide down the NL Central standings and out of the playoff race.

The decision to pull Poncedeleon must have been a difficult one for Schlidt, who replaced Matheney as interim manager on July 14. But if there was any real risk of long-term harm for Poncedeleon after 116 pitches, it was the correct decision.

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