Keough Improves After His Surgery : Baseball: He still has no long-term prognosis after head injury, but condition is upgraded from critical to serious.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Matt Keough was taken off a respirator and was able to sit up, eat, watch television and read newspaper accounts of his ordeal Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after emergency brain surgery to relieve pressure caused by a blood clot.

The Angel pitcher remained in intensive care at Scottsdale Memorial Hospital, but his condition was changed from critical to serious after a CAT scan. His wife, Jeana, said Tuesday night that her husband might be moved out of intensive care today and to a neurological care ward.

She added, however, that she has not been given a long-term prognosis for her husband, who was hit on the right temple by a foul ball Monday as he sat in the dugout at Scottsdale Stadium, awaiting his turn to pitch against the San Francisco Giants.

"I've been pushing for that sort of (information) from the doctors," she said. "They say he's day to day. It's a head injury. He may go home early. He could need physical therapy. They think maybe I'll be able to fly him home Saturday. The doctors think in a couple of weeks they can tell him, 'You can go back and play or you can't.' He said, 'I don't have a couple of weeks.' Mrs. (Jackie) Autry said, 'You have as long as you need.' "

Jeana Keough, seven months pregnant with the couple's third child, was home in Coto de Caza when her husband was hurt. She flew to Arizona after learning the extent of his injury and arrived after the surgery had been performed by Gordon Deen, a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale.

Keough's injury was the second suffered by a player in the newly renovated Scottsdale Stadium. Scott Hemond, an Oakland Athletic catcher-infielder, suffered a bruised breastbone last Saturday when he was struck by a foul ball in the same dugout. Despite complaints from players and managers that the dugouts are dangerously close to home plate, Giant General Manager Al Rosen said the team had no plans to set up protective screens. "What happened was a tragedy, and I feel terrible about it," he said. "It was an awful accident. But the dugouts here are no closer than in Boston or at Yankee Stadium. Something like that could happen anywhere."

The only planned modification is the raising of the screen behind home plate. Foul balls have landed there frequently, jeopardizing the safety of fans and the players' families, who are seated in a section behind the plate.

Jeana Keough said her husband's mind was clear enough Tuesday to remember the phone number of pitcher Pat Perry, who was released by the Angels on Monday, and to write notes to his children.

"He looks good," she said. "He wants to drive. He just wants to go to his (rented) apartment for an hour, and says he'll be right back. He's worried about his puppy.

"The hospital staff has been great and the Angels' staff has been great. Matt's real fortunate to be so close to this hospital and the neurosurgeon just happened to be there. The angels were on his side."

Keough's father, Marty, a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals, said his son asked for a newspaper Tuesday morning and read the headlines about his surgery without distress.

"It didn't even faze him," said Marty Keough, who added that Matt turned to the box score to see how his Angel teammates had done after he was taken to the hospital.

Marty Keough also said his son is not yet out of danger, "but he's progressed enough that you can be optimistic."

Deen was not available for comment. The Angels' acting team physician, Fred Dicke, said in a statement released by the club: "At this point, Matt is awake and alert. He has movement in all extremities. Preliminary results of this morning's CAT scan are encouraging and things are looking good."

Keough, 36, a nonroster player, was a serious contender for a spot in the starting rotation when the accident occurred.

Hearing of Keough's misfortune reminded Hemond how lucky he was. "I think they have to put a screen up," said Hemond, who said his chest remains sore from the blow.

"I didn't have a prayer. I was lucky I didn't get hit in the head."

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