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.

 

Cubs sign Drew Smyly to a two-year, $10 million contract

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The Cubs announced on Tuesday evening that the club signed pitcher Drew Smyly to a two-year contract. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports the contract is for $10 million total and allows Smyly to earn another $7 million with performance bonuses. Smyly was non-tendered by the Mariners at the beginning of the month and became a free agent.

Smyly, 28, underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in late June. He’s expected to miss, at minimum, the first half of the 2018 season. The Cubs are hoping he can contribute to a playoff push in the latter half of the season as well as in 2019.

Smyly didn’t pitch at all in 2017. When he was healthy the season prior, he made 30 starts for the Rays and put up a 4.88 ERA and a 167/49 K/BB ratio in 175 1/3 innings.