MLB looks to protect pitchers from line drives

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DETROIT (AP) - Major League Baseball is looking at ways to protect pitchers from being injured by batted balls such as the one that struck Doug Fister in the head, and says hat liners are a possibility in the minors next year.

The safety issue is on a “fast track,” MLB senior vice president Dan Halem said Friday night.

“Hopefully, we can come up with something,” he said. “We’re making progress.”

MLB medical director Dr. Gary Green has been talking to companies about protective headgear for pitchers, Halem said. A report is on the agenda at baseball’s winter meetings in December.

A cap liner with Kevlar, the high-impact material used by military, law enforcement and NFL players for body armor, is among the ideas under consideration.

Halem said baseball already was exploring options when Oakland pitcher Brandon McCarthy was hit in the head by a line drive last month, causing a skull fracture and brain contusion.

“After that, it kind of pushed up our timetable,” Halem said. “We decided to fast track it.”

“We think it’s possible for 2013 in the minor leagues,” he told The Associated Press.

Fister was the latest pitcher to get hit. Gregor Blanco’s second-inning shot caught Fister on the right side of the head and flew about 150 feet, the ball traveling so far that Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson picked it up on one hop.

Fister remained in the game Thursday night and worked into the seventh of a 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants. The Tigers said a team trainer pronounced Fister fine on Friday.

Many youth leagues require pitchers to wear helmets. Getting big league pitchers to adjust to something new would certainly take time, plus the approval of the players’ union.

“I definitely think it’s something worth exploring,” Game 1 winner Barry Zito said after the Giants worked out Friday night at Comerica Park. “We’ve had high-profile examples of those injuries lately, what happened with Brandon and then here in the World Series.”

Zito said he’d heard that MLB was looking into potential solutions.

“You don’t want it to be too drastic,” he said. “Little things can affect a pitcher’s delivery.”

Giants general manager Brian Sabean said there was merit to the study. Finding the right product would be the key, he said.

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