ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Linked by a bond created after each was struck on the ear by line drives while on the Tropicana Field mound this season, J.A. Happ and Alex Cobb stood side-by-side Sunday and expressed an interest in exploring protective headgear for pitchers.
Happ, the Toronto Blue Jays left-hander hit on the head by a Desmond Jennings drive, and Cobb, the Tampa Bay Rays right-hander, caught by Eric Hosmer’s screamer June 15, only recently returned from their injuries.
The frightening incidents renewed calls for pitchers to wear protective headgear – Major League Baseball is actively seeking out prototypes from equipment makers but has yet to find a product suitable enough to endorse – and both Happ and Cobb said it’s something they would consider.
“You’d be crazy not to look into it if it was available,” said Happ. “Function is the big issue. We were struck in the ear, so it would almost have to be like a helmet situation, but if it was functional and comfortable and it didn’t hinder the performance, then absolutely.”
Added Cobb: “I would explore it, I definitely would. If it affected my pitching that the point I’m not going to be successful on the mound, no, but, absolutely if it’s something I can work around, I would definitely love to have something out there.”
Cobb made his return from the DL Thursday with five innings of one-run ball in a 7-1 win over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, while Happ made his third start back Saturday with 5.1 innings of two-run ball in a 6-2 victory over the Rays.
The two exchanged text messages during their recovery, sharing stories and encouraging words.
To Cobb, that was helpful because “not too many people know what you’ve gone through on a personal level. To know his battles, although they were different, they were almost more severe, more troublesome in some cases with his knee, it’s really nice to see him out there on a big-league field and pitching well, too.”
Said Happ: “I actually saw the play when it happened to Alex and it was just such a surreal thing. Just to be able to see him and the healing that’s taken place, that’s the biggest thing. It’s definitely a scare with some of the issues he had to deal with that I didn’t, he had a little bit more to overcome and I’m really glad to be able to see him do that. …