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Those new, stronger batting helmets are now mandatory

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The press release is out and with the games starting this weekend, new batting helmets will be on every head:

– Beginning with the start of this week’s Spring Training exhibition games, Rawlings Sporting Goods Company, Inc. … and its new S100® Pro Comp™ batting helmet will become the standard throughout Major League Baseball®. The mandatory implementation of Rawlings’ technologically-advanced batting helmet is outlined in the 5-year collective bargaining agreement signed in November 2011 by MLB and the MLB Players Association™. Rawlings is the Official Batting Helmet of Major League Baseball.

In non-press release speak, those are updated versions of the carbon fiber helmets which were introduced a few years ago and were worn by players like David Wright, who were coming back from concussions. But there’s a big difference: they are much smaller than they used to be, back when people called them “Great Gazoo” helmets or whatever. Even last year, when they weren’t yet mandatory, the helmets were smaller.

Ken Belson of the New York Times has an in-depth story on the helmets. How they’re better, how they’re made and all of that.

Good for baseball for trying to stay ahead of the game in player safety.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.