No pitcher in the Royals clubhouse has requested the new protective cap intended to reduce damage from line drives.
The heavier and larger hat, approved by Major League Baseball in January, is available on a voluntary basis, but Royals’ senor director of travel Jeff Davenport said the team has had no takers.
The cap is a little over a half-inch thicker in the front and an inch thicker on the sides, near the temples, than standard caps. According to the manufacturer, 4Licensing Corporation, a subsidiary of isoBlox, the cap can protect a pitcher against line drives up to 85 mph on a side impact and 90 mph for a frontal impact.
The padding adds seven ounces to the cap.
Royals reliever Tim Collins, who said he’s never been hit in the head with a comebacker, understands the value of extra protection. “But right now I’m not interested,” he said.
Starter Danny Duffy recalls taking shots off the torso and backside. “I’ll take my chances,” he said.
Even the player who helped inspire a change in the cap, the A’s Brandon McCarthy, said he won’t wear the new hat.
“It just needs to keep making progress, and I’m confident that it will,” McCarthy told reporters. “The company is committed to moving forward and making the changes.”
McCarthy suffered a skull fracture and brain contusion when was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of the Angels’ Erick Aybar in September 2012.
Last year, the Royals were involved in a scary moment when a line drive off the bat of first baseman Eric Hosmer struck Rays pitcher Alex Cobb in the head. Cobb was taken to the hospital and was diagnosed with a mild concussion.
McCarthy worked with isoBlox on the design, but said he wasn’t comfortable enough with the cap to trust it in game situations.
“It doesn’t have enough wear and tear in it yet to see how it basically reacts,” McCarthy said. “Does it feel good over the course of a few innings or games?
McCarthy said he tested it indoors, but was concerned about how the hat would react or feel in the heat of summer. He also noticed that because the cap is a little taller than a regular baseball cap, it interfered with his windup when he brought his hands above his head.
“Once that becomes a conscious thought, now you kind of start tearing away of the foundation of what you are a pitcher,” McCarthy said.