NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Big league pitchers could experiment with protective hat liners next season, hoping they can absorb the shock of batted balls such as the ones that struck Brandon McCarthy and Doug Fister in the head.
Major League Baseball medical director Dr. Gary Green presented ideas to executives, physicians and trainers at the winter meetings this week. Among the prototypes being studied is headgear made of Kevlar, the high-impact material used by the military and law enforcement and NFL players for body armor.
The liners, weighing perhaps five ounces or less, would go under a pitcher's cap and help protect against line drives that often travel over 100 mph.
MLB could implement the safety change in the minor leagues, as it did a few seasons ago with batting helmets, but would require the approval of the players' union to make big leaguers wear them.
"We're not going to force them on anyone," MLB senior vice president Dan Halem said Monday. "We'd like to come up with a product or two, test it thoroughly with an independent laboratory and see if players are comfortable wearing them on an optional basis."
Halem had said baseball already was looking at options when McCarthy was hit in the head by a line drive in September. The Oakland pitcher was hospitalized with a skull fracture and brain contusion.
Fister was hit in the head by a liner in Game 2 of the World Series. The ball flew 150 feet into center field and, after Fister was examined by a Detroit trainer, he stayed in for several more innings against San Francisco.