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.

 

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.