TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Matt Shoemaker is the player people are happiest to see this spring in the Los Angeles Angels' camp.
It wasn't clear Shoemaker would make it here.
On Sept. 4 in Seattle, the Mariners' Kyle Seager ripped a line drive up the middle - clocked at 105 mph as it left his bat - that struck Shoemaker above his right ear. Though Shoemaker was able to walk off the field, he had to undergo emergency surgery after tests showed a skull fracture and bleeding in his brain.
His recovery took several weeks, but, otherwise, Shoemaker said he had a quiet, productive offseason.
''The good thing is that it was just a little different, just that first month being home through the recovery from the surgery. Other than that, everything was the same, getting all my work in and preparing for this season,'' he said
The right-hander has joined a group of pitchers to undergo similar experiences, including in recent years Evan Marshall, Brandon McCarthy, Dan Jennings, Carlos Carrasco, Aroldis Chapman, John Danks, Chris Young, Juan Nicasio and Hiroki Kuroda.
Asked if Major League Baseball should do more to mandate pitchers wear some sort of protective gear on the mound, Shoemaker said, ''It's got to be personal preference. You got to be comfortable to be able to perform. At the same time, you want to be safe and protected. ''
Shoemaker said he is in the ''experimentation stage'' of wearing hats that offer some level of protection but hasn't made a final decision.
For now, manager Mike Scioscia said, Shoemaker will wear a piece of composite material in his hat when he pitches.
Shoemaker has been one of the best stories in baseball in recent years. He was undrafted in 2008 after playing at Eastern Michigan then signed with the Angels for $10,000.
He attracted little attention until his breakout season in 2014, when he went 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA. Last year, he went 9-13 with a 3.88 ERA.
Though the Angels have yet to announce a rotation for this season, Shoemaker is expected to be near the top.
''It's a beautiful story,'' reliever Huston Street said of Shoemaker's return. ''As a baseball team, we're very thankful because of what he was able to do for us last year, carrying us for a long period of time. And he's just a great guy to have around. Such a positive guy. Such a nice person.''
Angels players tracked Shoemaker's recovery during the offseason, Street said.
''Everybody was following his progress and praying for him, and now we need him to have a great year. We all think he will.''
Shoemaker said he hasn't talked with any other pitchers who took a line drive to the head, though he said his wife Danielle received messages from the wives of some of those players.
He is thankful for all the support he received.
''The support system was great ... teammates, fans, family friends, you name it, everybody has reached out. I can't put words to it, it's been so great. Especially my teammates. These guys are family. We are with each other a lot, up to eight or nine months,'' he said. ''That support means a lot.''
Shoemaker threw to live hitters for the first time Wednesday with no problems.
''I'm feeling great. I'm ready to go,'' he said.