Protective caps for pitchers approved

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ESPN’s William Weinbaum reports that MLB has approved protective caps for pitchers the first time. Use is optional, and caps will be made available for all pitchers beginning next month in spring training. We first heard word that this was coming from Brandon McCarthy, himself a victim of a vicious comebacker a couple of years ago. Some details:

The company says the caps are a little over half-an-inch thicker in the front and an inch thicker on the sides — near the temples — than standard caps, and afford protection for frontal impact locations against line drives of up to 90 mph and for side impact locations at up to 85 mph.

The cap weighs seven ounces more than normal caps which, themselves, only weigh three or four ounces.

I’m all for added protection. But there is one pretty interesting fact here that I didn’t know before:

Four of the five pitchers who were hit in the head since Sept. 2012, including those most seriously injured — McCarthy, Happ and Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb — were struck below the cap line. MLB, however, hasn’t contemplated exploring protective headgear for pitchers with broader coverage, such as a visor, mask or helmet, said Halem. “There would have to be widespread willingness among players to use such a device.”

This puts me in mind of the move to get base coaches to wear batting helmets following the death of Mike Coolbaugh a few years ago. This despite the fact that the ball which killed Coolbaugh struck him far below the helmet line, actually near the base of his head where it meets his neck. Not to say that added protection is a bad thing. It’s clearly not. Just that no one should expect that the new protection provides a greater measure of safety than it actually does. It will still be dangerous out there for players in the line of fire.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see who adopts the new cap. And whether transition to it interferes with pitching mechanics or comfort in any way.

 

Joe Girardi won’t use Masahiro Tanaka in Game 7

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The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.

Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.

Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.

Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.