- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 8, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. (AP) - J.A. Happ raised his glove in front of his face as quickly as he could, a futile attempt to shield himself from the line drive headed straight for his temple.

It was too late. Thwack!

The sickening sound of a sharply hit baseball striking the Toronto pitcher’s skull could be heard all the way up in the press box.

And then, sheer silence.

Happ’s frightening injury Tuesday night at Tropicana Field left players on both teams shaken and revived questions about whether Major League Baseball is doing enough to protect pitchers who often find themselves in harm’s way on the mound.

“There are always close calls,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “It wakes you up, man _ that’s for sure.”

Happ was hit squarely on the left side of his head by Desmond Jennings‘ second-inning liner during Toronto’s 6-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. The left-hander was immobilized on a backboard, lifted onto a stretcher and wheeled off the field. He was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where the Blue Jays said he was alert and undergoing tests.

Nursing supervisor Natasha Keller told The Associated Press that Happ had been admitted to the hospital and was in stable condition.

It was the latest injury to a pitcher struck by a batted ball in the last few years, and baseball has discussed ways to protect hurlers who ply their craft against the world’s strongest hitters _ only 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate.

General managers discussed the issue during their meetings in November and MLB presented several ideas at the winter meetings weeks later.

MLB staff have said a cap liner with Kevlar, the material used in body armor for the military, law enforcement and NFL players, is among the ideas under consideration.

The liners, weighing perhaps 5 ounces or less, would go under a pitcher’s cap and help protect against line drives that often travel over 100 mph.

“We are actively meeting with a number of companies that are attempting to develop a product, and have reviewed test results for several products,” MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told the AP in an email after Happ was injured. “Some of the products are promising. No company has yet developed a product that has satisfied the testing criteria.”

Several pitchers around the majors sounded resistant _ even after seeing replays of Happ’s injury.

“You know the risks,” Angels lefty C.J. Wilson said. “Guys get hurt crashing into fences. Guys get hurt tripping over first base and blowing their knee out. This is professional sports, and we are paid well to take those risks.”

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