Baseball must mandate protective headgear for pitchers after latest injuries

McFarland nods.

"BAD off-speed pitch," he says grimly.

Fine, a cap lining wouldn't help with a line drive to the face. But if it helps deflect a shot off the skull and possible brain damage, isn't that better than nothing?

It is, say the Orioles pitchers I talked to. But guys would be reluctant to wear anything bulky, they say — anything different, anything they think throws off their balance and timing on the mound.

Major league pitchers can be total whack jobs about any little change in their routine.

"Some guys complain about the spring training hats we wear," starter Jason Hammel says. "The stretchy fit of it — even that annoys us."

How about being laid up in a hospital with a bad concussion because you now have the word "Rawlings" imprinted on your forehead from a scorching line drive — wouldn't that be even more annoying?

In the same breath, Hammel admits that his wife, Elissa, is worried sick about him getting clocked in the head by a line drive.

"Honestly," he says, "my wife was like: 'I'm gonna invent a [protective] cap and you're gonna have to wear it.'"

Me, I think it's baseball's job, not Elissa Hammel's, to find a way to protect pitchers from these terrifying shots like the one Alex Cobb took June 15 that left him with a concussion, vertigo, nausea and violent headaches.

And if it's a protective cap lining that baseball comes up with, make the pitchers wear it, period. If they resist, make them watch the video of Cobb nearly getting his head torn off. Make them watch it over and over again.

"Did you see the video?" I ask Hammel as our conversation ends.

He nods and makes a face.

"I watched it once," he says," and I couldn't watch it again."

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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