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DOWN THE LINE

Helmets not a good fit for pitchers, so far

Brandon McCarthy, hit on head by a line drive last year, finds prototype protective headgear too uncomfortable to wear. He'd rather wait for something better.

May 11, 2013|By Bill Shaikin
  • Pitcher Brandon McCarthy was hit in the temple by a line drive off the bat of Angels' Erick Aybar last season.
Pitcher Brandon McCarthy was hit in the temple by a line drive off the bat… (Monica M. Davey / EPA )

Heads up

Brandon McCarthy was eager to inspect the pitcher helmets making the rounds this spring. Then he tried one on.

"It felt like a cat was sleeping on my head," he said.

McCarthy had emergency brain surgery after he was hit on the head by a line drive last year. J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays was hospitalized overnight and diagnosed with a skull fracture after he was hit on the head Tuesday.

McCarthy, with the Oakland Athletics last year and Arizona Diamondbacks this year, said the helmet prototypes this spring were neither comfortable nor sufficiently protective. He wishes that baseball officials would stop talking about the issue until they actually have a usable helmet — and someone will invent one, he said, with all the potential customers in youth, high school and college leagues.

He isn't sure all pitchers would voluntarily wear an approved helmet. Would he?

"Yeah," McCarthy said last week at Dodger Stadium. "I've got a hole in my head."

Kazmir is back

The anatomy of the Angels' decline includes the 2009 trade for Scott Kazmir, whom they paid $24 million to deliver nine victories.

The Angels put him on the disabled list, sent him to the minor leagues and ultimately released him in 2011, convinced he could no longer be an effective pitcher. His earned-run average at triple A: 17.02.

Kazmir, 29, pitched in an independent league last year, then won a job with the Cleveland Indians this year. In his first start, the Indians gave him a 14-0 lead in the second inning, but he could not finish the fourth.

The Indians stuck with him. On Thursday, he won his second consecutive start, with 10 strikeouts and a fastball that hit 95 mph on his 95th pitch.

In his one full season in Anaheim, his fastball averaged 90 mph. In 2011, the Angels demoted him to the minors after one start, in which his fastball averaged 86 mph.

Nick Punto, All-Star?

The Dodgers have had it so rough recently that, when utilityman Nick Punto homered and doubled Tuesday, the team's Twitter feed directed followers to vote Punto into the All-Star game, as a write-in candidate. Punto last appeared in an All-Star game in 2002, as a triple-A shortstop.

The Dodgers should get Clayton Kershaw into the All-Star game, and maybe Hyun-Jin Ryu too.

Josh Hamilton got the most fan votes of any player in the majors last season, but that following won't necessarily follow him to the Angels. In his first season in Anaheim, Albert Pujols finished fifth among first basemen.

Mike Trout could win the fan vote, and Mark Trumbo is the most deserving of the Angels, but consider this: When Arte Moreno paid $375 million for Pujols and Hamilton, he wasn't betting that this year's All-Star game might be the first without either player since 2002.

— Bill Shaikin

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