One day after a line drive that left the bat at 105 mph struck Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon in the head, the team's athletic trainer said the point of impact was the logo on the back of Taillon's cap.
"I've been in baseball 18 years -- 10 in the majors -- and it's the first time I've seen a pitcher get hit in that particular place," Todd Tomczyk told ESPN's Outside the Lines on Wednesday.
Milwaukee's Hernan Perez hit the second-inning line drive that struck Taillon in the back of the head. The rookie right-hander stayed in the game, allowing only one run over six innings.
"He's doing well today and we're monitoring him," Tomczyk said.
There were four barriers, Tomczyk said, that helped prevent a brain injury to Taillon: "The cap itself, the logo, his hair and his skull."
Every time a pitcher gets hit in the head by a line drive, the protection question arises. According to Tomczyk, the protective headwear Major League Baseball and the players' association introduced in February would not have provided additional protection where Taillon was struck. About two-dozen pitchers were given the MLB/MLBPA prototype in spring training, but none of them have decided to wear it in a game.
Tomczyk said that in the spring all Pirates pitchers were encouraged to consider the MLB/MLBPA "hybrid of a cap and helmet" -- as it was described in February to Outside the Lines by MLB vice president Patrick Houlihan. The customized hats are about 0.7 inches thick and weigh 10 to 12 ounces, have a carbon fiber shell and roughly resemble sun visors with extended forehead and temple coverage, with single earflaps like batting helmets.
Pirates righty Jared Hughes told Outside the Lines on Wednesday he likes the MLB/MLBPA prototype, but spring training wasn't enough time for him to get sufficiently used to it to wear it in games. He said he expects to work out with it extensively this offseason and will seriously consider wearing it next year.
Hughes' chin and cheek were grazed by a liner last August; he put his glove up in time to partially deflect the drive. He said he never watches the video of that incident.
"It's just scary," Hughes said of the Taillon incident. "You immediately start praying."
Many pitchers have said the look of any headwear product is an important factor in whether they'll wear it, but Hughes said that means "zero" to him. He said the prototype, developed by the California-based company Boombang, was comfortable for him in spring training bullpen sessions and simulated games, but that he needs more time.
"It provides protection for the temple on the side you pitch from, so it's a pretty smart thing, in my opinion," Hughes said. "I'm going to give it a fair, fair shot, and if I can get used to it, I'll wear it [in games] and maybe other guys will follow."
Protective headwear is optional, and pitchers can wear any type they like, with or without league approval, as long as it doesn't interfere with play or violate licensing agreements. To date, the only other approved product was the bulky foam isoBLOX cap that was only worn in the majors by former Padres and Mets left-hander Alex Torres, who is now a minor leaguer.
Houston's Collin McHugh wears a carbon fiber partial insert made by Safer Sports Technologies, whose CEO said Wednesday that he or McHugh might contact Taillon about considering the product.
No current Pirates pitcher, Tomczyk said, is wearing any protective headwear.
Contacted Wednesday by Outside the Lines, MLB's Houlihan said, "We feel comfortable about where we ended up with the product. It's protective and lightweight, would get the job done [on batted balls that strike it] and we hope players consider it."