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.

 

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.