- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cleveland Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano has a recurring dream. A batter hits a line drive right back up the middle and it’s screaming toward his head.

He wakes up just before impact.

The real thing is a nightmare scenario that happens a couple times a season in the major leagues.

“Guys are bigger now and hitting the ball harder and we’re throwing the ball harder and when a guy hits one right on the screws bad things can happen,” Pestano said.

Most recently, it happened Saturday night in Florida.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb took a nasty shot off his head from the bat of Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer. That was the second time this season everyone in the stadium at a Rays game held their breath. In early May, on the very same mound, Toronto left-hander J.A. Happ took a nasty shot off his head.

Happ won’t return until July _ at the soonest. There’s no timetable for Cobb yet, though he’s home from the hospital.

In the meantime, baseball is left to figure out how to protect pitchers before one gets hurt in a more serious way.

It’s not just a player’s health and livelihood at stake. Teams also lose money when their players are on the disabled list. While Major League Baseball has been auditioning various types of equipment to protect pitchers, nothing has made the cut yet.

Any gear would have to stay in place during the violent, whole-body motion of pitching, not hinder its effectiveness and, of course, effectively protect their heads in event of an impact.

“I really hope something gets done because it’s time to act,” Royals pitcher Bruce Chen said. “I know it will probably take a couple of years to get it done, but let’s do it. Too many guys are getting hurt.”

Every pitcher knows that any pitch could result in a ball flying 100 mph or more right back at his head. Not all of them agree that something must be done.

“No one’s forcing you to play this game, and we’re not children,” Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija said. “We’re playing big league baseball with grown men, so that’s the risk you take when you play this game.”

Samardzija played major college football as a wide receiver at Notre Dame before he went into professional baseball, so he knows about danger in sports, and is familiar with wearing a lot more protective equipment than he does on the mound.

He is adamantly against requiring pitchers to wear anything more than they do now.

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