March 2nd, 2022 / MLB.com / Adam Berry
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Tyler Zombro spent Wednesday morning like just about any pitcher would spend the first day of Spring Training workouts. Hitting the back fields at Charlotte Sports Park on the first official day of the Rays’ Minor League camp, Zombro stretched and played catch and took part in pitchers’ fielding practice.
Just another day? Hardly. The 27-year-old right-hander said he couldn’t have been happier to be in camp. Plenty of people around the Rays facility considered Zombro’s mere participation a miracle.
Pitching for Triple-A Durham on June 3, Zombro was struck on the right side of his head, just above his ear, by a 104 mph line drive. He had a seizure on the mound, a terrifying scene that became national news, and underwent emergency brain surgery that lasted 2 1/2 hours and left him with 16 plates and 36 screws stabilizing his skull.
Now, here he is, wearing a protective cap but fully cleared to participate in Minor League Spring Training. Zombro is scheduled to throw a bullpen session during Friday’s workout then get back on the mound to face hitters in live batting practice in the days after that. If everything goes well, he’ll be ready for the start of the season in early April.
With the C-shaped scar on the right side of his head now covered by brown hair, the only thing that looks different is Zombro’s cap. Inside, there’s a protective Kevlar insert with padding underneath it. There’s also a small flap sticking out to cover his right temple, specifically designed to protect his fractured zygomatic bone. The insert, created by Rob Vito with Unequal Technologies, adds about 10 to 12 ounces to his hat — but Zombro has grown comfortable wearing it.