San Diego Padres reliever Alex Torres became the first pitcher in Major League Baseball history to play while wearing a protective cap on the mound, which was approved for pitchers before the season. In the eighth inning against the Dodgers on Saturday, Torres wore the hat while he walked two batters, struck out two others and gave up one run.
"It could save our lives, if someone hits a ball to your head. I get it for free, so I'm just gonna use it to see how it feels," Torres said after the game, via MLB.com.
The dangers for a pitcher on the mound are no secret. Major League Baseball approved the new protective cap back in January 2014, almost 17 months after then-Oakland A's pitcher Brandon McCarthy suffered a skull fracture and brain contusion from being struck in the head by a line drive. Since then, Tampa Bay's Alex Cobb and Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman have also suffered injuries from being hit in the head by batted balls.
The cap has protective padding along the front and the sides which makes it much bigger than a normal hat. The manufacturer of the cap, 4Licensing Corporation subsidiary isoBlox, told ESPN's Outside The Lines when it was approved that it's about a half-inch thicker in the front and a full inch thicker on the sides than normal caps.
While one of the Padres announcers said he thinks the hat is too big, Torres, who insisted that it didn't feel very different from a normal baseball cap.
"The difference between how this hat and the regular hat feels isn't much. I tried it before using it in the game, playing catch," Torres said. "It doesn't feel really bad. It doesn't feel like how it looks on my head."