Those scary hits to the head that pitchers sometimes take on line drives might not be quite as scary this year.
A new protective cap designed to reduce the effects of such blows has been approved by Major League Baseball and was introduced on Tuesday.
Caps with the new design will be available for testing during spring training but won't be mandatory for major and minor leaguers.
The new, custom-fitted hats feature safety plates made by IsoBLOX that give extra protection to the forehead, temple and sides of the head. The caps weigh six or seven ounces more than the traditional ones and are about a half-inch thicker in the front and an inch thicker on the sides.
Still, these are only "slightly bigger" than the regular caps, unlike the safer batting helmets from several years ago that were largely rejected by players for being to big and funny looking, said Bruce Foster, chief executive of 4Licensing Corp., parent company of IsoBLOX.
According to Foster, the cap has shown during extensive testing to protect the head from line drives up to 90 mph in the front of the head and 85 mph on the side.
There have been several high-profile incidents involving pitchers being hit in the head by line drives in recent years. In 2012 Brandon McCarthy sustained a brain contusion and skull fracture after such a blow and Doug Fister absorbed one during the World Series.
The IsoBLOX protective caps are the first to get MLB approval, but other companies still might submit their own products.