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Pitcher safety against liners still issue for baseball
MLB » Twice this season pitchers have been hit by line drives.

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Of the more than a dozen pitchers and managers The Associated Press interviewed for this story, the one thing they all emphasized was just how much bad luck it takes to be hit in the head.

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Sure, when a player gets hit, everyone notices, but the vast majority of balls put into play come nowhere near hurting anyone. And even the close calls emphasize how unlikely it is for a pitcher’s head and a batted ball to wind up in the same place in such a way that the pitcher is unable to turn or get his glove up.

"That ball’s not big, so for that ball to hit me right there, the percentage of chance of that happening to me is not worth doing all the headgear," Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt said. "Unless you have to, I’m for that. That’s just your livelihood, I’m not going to die. I’m not going to do it."

Reds starter Mat Latos, meanwhile, actually calculated some chances.

"Let’s see. You have five starters. No, wait, you have, what, 12 pitchers on a team? Do the math," he said, pulling out his phone to use the calculator function.

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"You have 360 pitchers ... and two have been hit in the head. It happens. It’s a terrible thing. When guys like Happ and Cobb get hit in the head, you feel terrible. It’s not because they’re your teammate or your friend. You feel terrible."

Nevertheless, Latos was skeptical of mandating safety improvements.

"It is what it is," he said. "You know comebackers can happen."

And they will continue to do so. The question is what can be done to prevent these rare but dangerous incidents.

Helmets? Protective cap liners? A protective screen, like in batting practice? All of these have been suggested. None have been acclaimed in baseball. Neither by rookies or veterans.

"I’m not going to overreact to that because I’m not real sure a guy can pitch with a helmet to be honest with you," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I can’t imagine a pitcher out there pitching with an ear flap on. ... I hate to sound cold about it because I don’t mean to, but I’m not sure that’ll work."

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