It was a scary moment.
"I thought something had to be broken," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.
Thankfully for Jeff Francoeur and the Braves, nothing was.
The former Parkview star escaped serious injury when he was struck on the left side of the face by a pitch Sunday during the second inning of a game against St. Louis at Jupiter, Fla.
X-rays were negative and Francoeur was cleared after a follow-up exam Monday in Orlando. He could return to the lineup as early as Wednesday, when the Braves resume exhibition play after an off day today.
"Luckily, it didn't mess up my jaw or anything," Francoeur said.
"It scared the heck out of me," Cox said. "I'm glad he'll be all right."
Francoeur crumpled to the ground after being hit by a pitch from Cardinals starter Todd Wellemeyer. The right fielder suffered a cut inside his month, but didn't lose any teeth.
"It still hurts," said Francoeur, whose face remains swollen.
Fortunately, the ball struck Francoeur on the left side of the face rather than the right. A foul tip on a bunt attempt struck him under the right eye in 2004 while playing for Class A Myrtle Beach, fracturing the orbital bone. A titanium plate was put under the right cheekbone and Francoeur was sidelined for five weeks.
"I thought about that," Francoeur said. "I didn't want to get hit in the same place."
The Braves are counting on a big season this year from Francoeur, who has played in all 162 games in each of his two full seasons with the Braves.
The 24-year-old hit .293 with 105 RBIs last year, although his home run total dropped from 29 to 19. He bulked up this winter in hopes of improving his power numbers.
Francoeur is hitting .314 with a homer and eight RBIs this spring.