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Thursday, March 14
Watson: Heavy plastic pads can't be worn news services

Mo Vaughn

Barry Bonds

JUPITER, Fla. -- Batters better bring a doctor's note to home plate if they still want to wear one of those big, hard elbow pads.

Bob Watson, baseball's new vice president for field operations, has told teams that he will be emphasizing a rule that limits the type of body armor that can be worn at bat.

"It's the same rule as last year," Watson said Thursday. "We will make sure that the rules are complied with."

An edict was put into place last year that elbow pads can't be longer than 10 inches and must be covered by nylon. But that did little to keep hitters from crowding the plate.

"In my case, I have to wear it because I've been hit by so many pitches," Montreal first baseman Andres Galarraga said. "I know pitchers complain because guys dive over the plate and sometimes try to get hit. I just try to get out of the way."

Many players wear heavy body pads that allows them to stand close to the plate without fear of breaking a bone on a hit by pitch. San Francisco's Barry Bonds, Houston's Craig Biggio, the Mets' Mo Vaughn and Montreal's Jose Canseco are among the most prominent body armor wearers.

In order to wear a pad longer than 10 inches, a player will need to show a medical reason for it.

"There's probably seven or eight guys that will apply for that," Watson said. "All of that has to be done with doctors' notes and has to be sanctioned by my office."

There has been a steep rise in hit batsmen in recent years as players stand closer to the plate and pitchers struggle to command inside pitches. Last year, 1,890 batters were hit by pitches -- 17 percent more than in 2000.

"It's a difficult rule because a lot of guys wear the protection because they've been hit there and don't want to get hurt again," Expos catcher Michael Barrett said. "It's the worst place to get hit. When you're hit in the elbow, the pain doesn't go away for months.

"But I have seen a few guys wear it and intentionally dive into pitches to get a base," Barrett said. "So it's not an easy decision."

In Vaughn's eyes, the decision is clear.

"They're just making sure there's no distinct edge to the hitter," Vaughn told USA Today. "I can understand that, but I've been on top of the plate my whole career. I personally wear my elbow pad because if I get hit in the wrong place on my arm, it's going to break because it's been hit so many times."

While most pitchers are in favor of any rule change that keeps hitters off the plate, Padres right-hander Kevin Jarvis used protection himself last year.

"I wore an elbow guard after I got hit last year, because I bat left-handed and I throw right-handed," Jarvis said. "I see no unfair advantage."

Padres manager Bruce Bochy disagrees.

"It's the right thing to do," he told USA Today. "Too many batters are hanging over the plate. They are overdoing it with the body armor. It seems like every advantage keeps going to hitters."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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