Early premonition comes true with Rocchio, Freeman collision

4:53 AM UTC

ARLINGTON — Guardians second baseman Andrés Giménez looked at shortstop Brayan Rocchio in the second inning and said, “Hey bro, you have a red card.”

A red card is handed out in soccer when there’s serious foul play or violent conduct. Little did anyone know how much truer this joke would become just a few innings later.

The Guardians were pleased to escape Tuesday with a 7-4 victory over the Rangers at Globe Life Field, but they can be even more grateful they did so without losing any of their players to injury after Freeman and Rocchio had a nasty collision in center field in the fifth inning.

“It was an eventful game to say the least,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said.

Rangers cleanup man Adolis García lifted a high fly ball into middle depth center field. It was a routine fly ball for a center fielder. It traveled 255 feet and had a catch probability of 99%. A run-of-the-mill play.

Rocchio broke toward the ball off the bat in case it was too shallow for Freeman to get to. But as the ball fell toward the ground, Freeman had plenty of time to plant himself under it and cameras caught him yelling, “I got it,” as it was about to reach his glove.

“As soon as I saw [Freeman] was getting there, I kind of took my eyes off of it,” Vogt said.

However, instead of peeling away from the play, Rocchio kept his eye on the ball — all the way until it was in Freeman’s glove.

“I made the catch and then I just, next thing you know I’m on the floor,” Freeman said. “We’re both athletes, so we’re both gonna go after the ball. Luckily, I held onto it.”

Rocchio collided with Freeman at full speed. Although Freeman was calling for the ball, Rocchio said he couldn’t hear him.

“Big stadium,” Freeman added. “I tried to scream as loud as I can, but it’s just tough to hear.”

The shortstop’s glove mashed the center fielder in the face, as Freeman’s elbow slammed into Rocchio’s mouth. Freeman fell flat on his back and Rocchio rolled on his stomach while grasping his jaw. Globe Life Field fell silent, as the two laid relatively motionless.

“My head was spinning,” Freeman said. “I had no idea what happened. I didn’t know where I was hit or anything. So I tried to take it chill and slowly got up and was fine after.”

“I thought first for my teeth,” Rocchio said. “I said, ‘Oh, my teeth!’”

Their teammates quickly swarmed around them and the training staff hustled out to the outfield. After a few minutes of being evaluated, they each confirmed they were OK to remain in the game.

“Those are two tough guys to get up from that,” Vogt said.

Rocchio covered a lot of ground to even be in the area to collide with Freeman — something he didn’t realize he had done.

“When I saw the video, yeah it was far,” Rocchio said. “The next time, I don’t want to go too far from my position.”

After the inning ended, the two led off the top half of the next frame. Rocchio popped out in foul territory, but Freeman was hit by a pitch for the second time (the first coming to lead off the game) to add yet another bruise from the day’s events. In the bottom half of the frame, he made a diving catch in shallow center field and added a double in the ninth.

“Shout out to ‘Free,’” Vogt said. “He gets smoked by two pitches and got illegal hit on the fair catch in center field by Rocchio. Thankfully, they’re both OK. That’s why we can laugh about it.”

Rocchio had escaped a major collision in the second inning with Giménez when he went after Josh Smith’s groundout on the opposite side of second base. When he realized Giménez was there, it was too late for him to stop, so he slid and slightly ran into Giménez, who got the first out of the frame on the play, prompting the red card joke.

Giménez laughed at the time. Vogt and Rocchio each chuckled postgame when they were asked about both run-ins. The group knows these types of things are bound to happen with young players. The key will be for Rocchio to use this as a learning experience and make sure no red cards need to be handed out moving forward.

“With positioning and things like that, sometimes those things can happen,” Vogt said. “We made the plays. That’s all I can really say. Thankful we made the plays.”