MLB approves new version of padded cap for pitchers

Second-generation protection is more versatile, worn on outside of hat

Major League Baseball has approved the use of a new version of padded caps for pitchers. It remains to be seen whether the players will be any more receptive than they were when the first-generation protection was introduced last season and only one pitcher wore it.

All 30 teams were informed via email Friday afternoon about the new product, which has detachable padding that goes over a standard cap instead of the inside padding of last year's isoBLOX edition. The story was first reported by ESPN's "Outside the Lines."

Patrick Houlihan, MLB's vice president and deputy general counsel for labor relations told ESPN: "Our first priority is making sure of safety, and hopefully this product that is worn over a normal cap will be more user-friendly and versatile for pitchers to try on and determine if it's for them."

The new product had to pass independent laboratory testing. Use by pitchers is strictly voluntary. The only pitcher who wore head protection last season was Alex Torres of the Padres; most found it too bulky, uncomfortable or unsightly.

Bruce Foster, CEO of 4Licensing Corp, told ESPN that the changes were meant to alleviate concerns that the cap with interior padding and a longer bill was uncomfortable and interfered with pitchers' depth perception and ability to hold runners on base.

There has been a push to find ways to increase protection after a spate of incidents in which pitchers were hit by line drives.

The exterior padding is expected to be available to pitchers in Spring Training beginning next week. Made of plastic and foam, it will attach to the caps with an adjustable strap. While the weight is expected to be virtually the same as last season's model, the hope is that it will feel more like the caps that pitchers are used to wearing.

The new isoBLOX concept increases padded coverage by about 20 percent, improving protection of critical regions -- like the temples -- against catastrophic injury, Foster told ESPN.

Houlihan added that MLB continues to seek any ideas for products that will increase safety for pitchers and reduce the possibility of critical injuries.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.