After his final spring start of 2017, Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker declared himself ready for the regular season and announced he would begin the season wearing a piece of protective headgear in his cap.
Shoemaker, 30, experienced few complications returning from surgery to cease bleeding within his brain stemming from a 105 mph line drive off the bat of Kyle Seager that struck him in the temple last September.
Over the offseason, he considered whether he might wear something extra inside his cap that could absorb some of the impact if a ball were to strike him again.
"I'm going to wear one of them," he said Wednesday, "but that could change in the future."
Shoemaker rotated between two pieces of equipment this spring. One was a small carbon-fiber piece, made by Safer Sports Technologies, that primarily protects the the right side of his head near the temple, where Shoemaker was struck. The other was a larger Ball Cap Liner, made of multiple materials and endorsed by former major leaguer Cliff Floyd, that wraps around the head. At least one active pitcher, Houston right-hander Collin McHugh, uses the carbon-fiber strip; the Ball Cap Liner is popular in youth baseball.
Shoemaker said he was not ready to say which he would use.
"Here's the cool thing," Shoemaker said. "I really don't feel them when I wear it. If I felt them or knew it was there, I'm not wearing it anymore. The cool thing about these two is that I have no clue. I forget they're there. So, because of that, why not wear it? It's not gonna hurt me."
He said his choice to include the extra piece of equipment was influenced by his family and friends.
"The main reasons being, one, it's protective; two, it gives other people peace of mind," Shoemaker said. "My peace of mind is fine. I could go out there and wear nothing, and I'm comfortable doing that. But if I don't feel it, don't know it's there, I might as well wear it."
Shoemaker was scheduled to throw up to five innings and 75 pitches on Wednesday, and he finished at four and 71. He walked one and permitted nine hits, including a home run, and pronounced himself pleased with the performance. He and pitching coach Charles Nagy worked through his delivery in the dugout after he left the game.
"A couple pitches, my timing was a little off," Shoemaker said. "That's where you've got to sometimes make in-game adjustments. He was telling me what he saw, and I was telling him what I felt, back and forth."
In four starts against major league teams this spring, Shoemaker struck out 21 and walked five.
He said he has not been told when he will next start. Shoemaker and fellow right-hander Ricky Nolasco appear to be in line to start the first two games of the regular season in Oakland. If Shoemaker's the opening-day choice, he will pitch on a standard allotment of rest, and Nolasco will receive a full week between outings.
If Nolasco is the opening-day starter, both pitchers will work on one extra day of rest.
Shoemaker said the benefits of an extra day of rest vary based on the month. Late in the season, he said, it can be wonderful.
"Overall, not really," he said.
Right-hander Garrett Richards expects to start April 5 in Oakland, in the Angels' third game of the season. Left-hander Tyler Skaggs should be on track to start the fourth or fifth game, and right-hander Jesse Chavez will likely start whichever game Skaggs does not. Both Richards and Chavez threw bullpen sessions Wednesday. Skaggs will start a minor league game Thursday on a back field at the Angels' Tempe complex. … Most of the Angels were booked on flights to Orange County after Wednesday's game.