Major League Baseball is working with a half-dozen manufacturers to develop padded caps that could help pitchers avoid serious injury if struck by a line drive or a broken bat, MLB.com has confirmed.
The discussions are still in the preliminary stages. Companies are in the process of being vetted, and discussions with the MLB Players Association have not begun. However, the goal is for pitchers to have prototypes available to try on a voluntary basis by Spring Training. It's possible that the protective caps could be used in the Minor Leagues as early as next season.
"We take the matter of head injuries seriously and are working with a number of different manufacturers to develop equipment that will provide adequate safety for our players," said Pat Courtney, MLB's senior vice president of public relations.
MLB already was investigating the issue of pitcher safety when then-Athletics pitcher Brandon McCarthy suffered a fractured skull and brain contusion after being struck on the side of the head by a line drive hit by Erick Aybar of the Angels in September.
Tigers pitcher Doug Fister was struck in the head by a line drive by Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco in Game 2 of the World Series at San Francisco's AT&T Park, but he was not seriously injured. McCarthy missed the remainder of the season and the postseason following his surgery. He has since received clearance to resume throwing and signed a two-year contract with the D-backs.
ESPN reported that Unequal Technologies Co. is one of the firms involved with the process, and that the protection for each cap is one-eighth of an inch thick and weighs 4.3 ounces. Another company, the report said, is EvoShield, which employs a system that is a quarter of an inch thick and weighs fewer than five ounces.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.