Padres reliever Alex Torres became the first major-league pitcher to don the protective baseball cap that was approved by Major League Baseball back in January. He would pitch one inning, allowing a run on two walks and a single, while striking out two in a 4-2 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.
Even though MLB approved the protective cap in the offseason, no pitcher had worn the hat until Torres opted to do so on Saturday. Not even Brandon McCarthy, who required emergency surgery after getting struck in the head by a line drive when pitching for Oakland in 2012, would wear it.
“Hopefully, in a couple years, they can come up with something that everyone wears and that you don’t notice it being on your head while out there,” McCarthy told ESPN.com in January after the cap was approved. “I hope it gets there. … But right now, it’s just not there.”
McCarthy, who currently pitches for the Diamondbacks, claimed the cap was too big, too itchy and too hot to wear. The caps feature more than a half-inch of padding in the front and an inch on the sides.
But that didn’t stop Torres in his 74th major-league appearance on Saturday night. MLB.com reported the 26-year-old Venezuelan left-hander, who debuted in the majors in 2011, ordered the protective cap within the last month and had worn it off-and-on while playing catch this past week.
The below MLB.com video includes the Padres TV broadcast team of Dick Enberg and former major leaguer Mark Sweeney discussing the cap, plus Vin Scully’s take during the Dodgers’ broadcast. They definitely have some interesting comments.
“The difference between how this hat and the regular hat feels isn’t much,” Torres told MLB.com. “I tried it before using it in the game, playing catch. It doesn’t feel really bad. It doesn’t feel like how it looks on my head.”
With the Padres trailing 3-0, Torres took the mound in the top of the eighth inning. After opening with a called strike, he walked Dee Gordon on a 3-2 pitch. Torres then struck out Hanley Ramirez, but walked Yasiel Puig after getting ahead 0-2 in the count.
Adrian Gonzalez then drove the first pitch he saw to center field for an RBI single and a 4-0 Dodgers lead. But Torres responded by striking out Matt Kemp and inducing Andre Ethier to ground out to second to wrap up the half inning.
“It could save our lives, if someone hits a ball to your head,” Torres told MLB.com. “I get it for free, so I’m just gonna to use it to see how it feels.”