Pitchers could wear protective hat liners next season

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Big league pitchers could experiment with protective hat liners next season, hoping they can absorb the shock of batted balls such as the ones that struck Brandon McCarthy and Doug Fister in the head.


Major League Baseball medical director Dr. Gary Green presented ideas to executives, physicians and trainers at the winter meetings this week. Among the prototypes being studied is headgear made of Kevlar, the high-impact material used by the military and law enforcement and NFL players for body armor.


The liners, weighing perhaps five ounces or less, would go under a pitcher’s cap and help protect against line drives that often travel more than 100 mph.


MLB could implement the safety change in the minor leagues, as it did a few seasons ago with batting helmets, but would require the approval of the players’ union to make big leaguers wear them.


A-Rod needs surgery

Alex Rodriguez will have surgery on his left hip and will miss the start of the season and possibly the entire first half.


Rodriguez has a torn labrum, bone impingement and a cyst, the Yankees said Monday. The third baseman will need to follow a pre-surgery program over the next four-to-six weeks, and the team anticipates he will be sidelined four-to-six months after the operation.


That timetable projects to a return between the start of May and mid-July. A-Rod had right hip surgery on March 9, 2009, and returned that May 8.


Napoli signs with Boston

A person familiar with the negotiations says catcher Mike Napoli and the Boston Red Sox have agreed to a $39 million, three-year contract.


The deal is subject to Napoli passing a physical, which will take place later this week, the person said Monday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet final.


A 31-year-old who also plays first base, Napoli hit .320 with 30 homers and 75 RBI as the Texas Rangers won their second straight AL pennant in 2011, then slumped to a .227 average with 24 homers and 56 RBI this year.


Kruk to replace Francona

John Kruk, a member of ESPN’s studio team since 2004, will be Terry Francona’s replacement in the booth for Sunday night telecasts next season.


Kruk will partner with Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser, giving ESPN a new crew for the third straight season after 21 consecutive years with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. Buster Olney remains as the crew’s reporter. Francona left ESPN in October to become Cleveland’s manager.


Soto to stay in Texas

A person familiar with the deal tells the Associated Press catcher Geovany Soto is staying with the Texas Rangers and has agreed to a $2.75 million, one-year contract.


Soto’s agreement allows him to earn an additional $250,000 in performance bonuses. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Monday because the deal has not yet been announced.


Soto, who turns 30 next month, hit .196 with five homers and 25 RBI in 47 games last season as the backup for Mike Napoli.


Trio picked for Hall

Former New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, longtime umpire Hank O’Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White have been elected to the baseball Hall of Fame for their excellence through the first half of the 20th century.


The trio was picked by the Hall’s pre-integration committee. The announcement was made Monday at the winter meetings. Induction ceremonies will be held July 28.


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