Player safety has become a major talking point in Major League Baseball over recent seasons, particularly on the mound and at the plate.
How and when catchers are permitted to block home plate was changed in the aftermath of San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey suffering a broken leg in 2011. Moreover, MLB is likely to change the rules on slides into second base.
That’s in response to Chris Coghlan and Chase Utley breaking an infielder’s leg with their respective hard slides into second base as they attempted to break up a double play.
Where progress on safety has lacked is with protection for pitchers. New York Mets reliever Alex Torres became the first MLB pitcher to wear the isoBLOX protective cap that was introduced in 2014 when he was a member of the San Diego Padres.
However, the hat’s bulky design has prevented it from being worn by more pitchers. Now, according to William Weinbaum of ESPN, pitchers are going to test a new protective headwear in Spring Training:
Early in spring training, 20 big league pitchers are expected to receive newly designed protective headwear resulting from a collaboration between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. “A hybrid of a cap and a helmet” is how MLB vice president Patrick Houlihan describes the customized hats that weigh 10 to 12 ounces, depending on head size, have a carbon fiber shell and roughly resemble sun visors with extended forehead and temple coverage and single earflaps like batting helmets. The average thickness is about 0.7 inches and is greatest in places most susceptible to catastrophic injury, according to Boombang, the company hired to design and produce the headwear.
The only Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher to be struck in the head by a line drive is Brandon McCarthy, who underwent surgery for two hours to relieve cranial pressure after CT scans revealed he had suffered an epidural hemorrhage, a brain contusion, and a skull fracture.
While McCarthy did not pitch again that season, he made a full recovery. Last season Arizona Diamondbacks rookie Archie Bradley was hit in the face by a line drive that resulted in some sinus cavity damage and significant swelling.
Also in 2015, New York Yankees pitcher Bryan Mitchell took a line drive off his face and suffered a nasal fracture.