New York Mets reliever Alex Torres, the only major leaguer to wear the first MLB-approved padded pitcher's cap last year, on Saturday became the first to receive and wear the new approved version with the padding on the outside, according to the manufacturer.
Torres, a lefty, entered Saturday night's game in the ninth inning, after the Miami Marlins already had scored three times to cut New York's lead to 5-4. Torres struck out Christian Yelich on three pitches to record his first career save.
"It felt OK, felt a little weird the first time using that kind of model," he said. "I don't think about that, I just go to the mound to make that out we needed to win the game.
"I liked more the one I used last year. I think if I use it [the new model] more and more games, I think I'm going to get a better feeling."
Torres said he would continue to use the new version.
Outside the Lines reported a month ago that the company behind the isoBLOX padding removed it from inside the cap in an effort to address its lack of acceptance from pitchers other than Torres a year ago. But with MLB and players' association approval coming close to the start of the season, the new padding to match teams' official New Era caps is just now being completed, said Bruce Foster, CEO of 4Licensing Corp., whose subsidiary Pinwrest makes the padding.
4Licensing president Mark Panko said a Padres version of the new exterior padding had been completed for Torres last month, but when the Venezuelan was then traded to the Mets, new padding had to be made for him.
"He was an early adopter, and we thought he would be the best person for rolling out the new one," Foster said.
The isoBLOX padding, made of a proprietary material and a foam substrate, received baseball's approval after independent testing at 83 mph, determined to be the average speed of line drives reaching the mound area. Panko said the padding remains a work in progress, with feedback from pitchers essential to future adjustments. Pitchers criticized 2014's inside-the-cap padding, citing the extra heft (it is more than double the weight of a standard cap) and the compromised depth perception because of the extension of the cap's bill.
Torres said seeing his then-Tampa Bay teammate Alex Cobb get hit in the head by a line drive in 2013 influenced him to opt for increased protection, regardless of how it looked. On Tuesday, Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco became the first pitcher during the 2015 regular season, joining the list of those struck by liners to the head (Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers was hit in the head during spring training -- both he and Carrasco were hit below the cap line).
As reported by Outside the Lines last week, another company, Unequal Technologies, introduced its Kevlar padding in spring training and said it has been worn by six pitchers. That product, however, has not been tested or approved by baseball.
Pitchers are free to select protective headgear of their choice, unless it is deemed by baseball to interfere with competition or with MLB licensing agreements. MLB and the players' union said they are collaborating with another company to try to devise alternatives.
Foster said he is encouraged by the reaction his company received in spring training to the revision of the isoBLOX padding and that "it's more reasonable to think pitchers will adopt this."
Information from ESPNNewYork.com contributor Danny Knobler was used in this report.