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Rangers on board with new padded caps

1/28/2014

The news Tuesday that MLB has approved a padded cap for pitchers certainly pleased Matt Harrison.

The Texas Rangers left-handed pitcher hasn’t been hit in the head while on the mound, but he knows it’s something that could happen at any time. So if there is a cap that is comfortable that will help protect him, he’ll wear it. But Harrison and teammates Derek Holland and Michael Kirkman want to see if the new product makes sense to wear before committing to it.

“I’m not a fashion person, so I don’t care how it looks as long as it’s protecting me,” Harrison said.

Pitchers will have a chance to try the new caps -- designed to provide some protection for balls coming at pitcher’s at 83 mph, the average speed of a line drive when it reaches the mound, according to an MLB study -- in spring training. They are optional.

“I read a little bit about it, and my biggest thought was the weight and size of it,” said Kirkman, who will go to spring training to try to earn a spot on the staff. “I think it’s something you have to try out and see how it feels. But it seems like a good idea.”

Holland, who is rehabbing after knee surgery and could return to the rotation around midseason, said he’s seen some prototypes and is encouraged that MLB is working so hard to do something.

“If it’s going to save people, it’s definitely worth it,” Holland said. “It may take some time to find something real good, but it’s a start and hopefully it will help eliminate the major injuries. Anything that’s going to keep me safe, I’ll wear it. To see friends and other teammates that have been affected by it, like Brandon McCarthy, I’m going to be with them on it.”

McCarthy said today that he won't wear the new cap, saying "the technology is there" but that he doesn't think it's "a major league-ready product" yet.

Holland, Kirkman and Harrison said they’ve never been hit in the head by a line drive. But Harrison remembers watching Dustin Nippert, who pitched with the Rangers in 2010, get hit by a line drive that contacted his head hard enough that the ball went out to left field. Nippert never lost consciousness, but he was out for six weeks with concussion symptoms and headaches.

Rangers pitcher Eric Hurley was hit by a ground ball in the head and suffered a concussion and small fracture during a minor league game in 2011.

“It’s a very serious thing when you’ve got an object coming at you that hard,” Kirkman said. “I’m glad they are doing something."