Baseball looks at Kevlar in caps, and other meetings notes

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Baseball is in the early stages of testing Kevlar inserts that could go inside caps and help protect pitchers from head injuries.

Head injuries have become a growing concern, one that got even bigger when A's pitcher Brandon McCarthy required brain surgery after he was hit by an Erick Aybar line drive in early September. Tigers pitcher Doug Fister was more fortunate when a Gregor Blanco line drive struck him on the top of the head, but the desire to find a better way to protect pitchers only increased.

Baseball's general managers were briefed Thursday morning on the Kevlar tests, and preliminary results could be presented to team medical personnel at next month's winter meetings in Nashville.

Any requirement to wear more protection would need to be collectively bargained with the players' union, but the first step may be to provide inserts that players could choose to either use or not use.

Other notes from the second and final full day of the general managers' meetings:

-- It was at these meetings a year ago when Ken Williams first suggested that the White Sox would spend last winter "rebuilding."

Since then, the White Sox spent much of the 2012 season in first place, and Rick Hahn was promoted to Williams' old job as general manager. And Hahn won't speak the word "rebuild," even to rule out the possibility that the White Sox would consider it.

"No, we don't intend to use that word this offseason," Hahn said with a smile. "We intend to compete for a World Series championship in 2013."

With White Sox fan-in-chief Barack Obama reelected this week, Hahn said he has another new task.

"I'm on the clock," Hahn said. "I've only got four years [to get the White Sox to the White House for a visit as champions]."

-- While the move toward expanded replay is real, people involved say that the next step is to convince commissioner Bud Selig and the owners. The issue is expected to come up again at next week's owners meetings in Chicago.

Selig has been reluctant to move towards greatly expanded use of replay, but MLB executive vice president Joe Torre has become a stronger proponent, and that should help influence the commissioner.

-- Get ready to hear more criticism of the Tigers' infield defense. General manager Dave Dombrowski said Thursday that finding a better shortstop than Jhonny Peralta is "not a priority," and that he fully expects to begin 2013 with the same infield that finished 2012.

Dombrowski also said that while the Tigers would like to re-sign free-agent starter Anibal Sanchez, they don't expect to pursue any other free-agent starters. If Sanchez signs elsewhere, he said, the Tigers would most likely enter 2013 with both Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly in their rotation.

The Tigers would like to add a corner outfielder with power.

-- As Jon Heyman wrote, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson's two biggest tasks are signing David Wright to a new contract and deciding what to do with R.A. Dickey. But the Mets have other issues, as Alderson admitted with a touch of humor on Thursday.

Asked about his outfield, Alderson responded, "What outfield? We're going to bring those fences in another 150 feet."

As of now, Lucas Duda is the Mets' best (only?) outfielder. And Duda just broke his wrist moving furniture.

-- Many people in baseball expect the Nationals to sign Michael Bourn, but some people in the Nationals organization would prefer to just keep Bryce Harper in center field. General manager Mike Rizzo has been thought to be against Harper in center field, but Rizzo said Thursday, "If we need to keep Harper in center field, we're comfortable with that."

Agent Scott Boras, who represents both Harper and Bourn, suggested strongly that he thinks Harper should play a corner spot.

After describing Harper, Boras said, "In the end, those players usually become corner outfielders."

-- Some Orioles people were very disappointed that O's general manager Dan Duquette didn't get a single vote for executive of the year. A's GM Billy Beane won the award, with Rizzo, Rangers GM Jon Daniels, Reds GM Walt Jocketty, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, Giants GM Brian Sabean and White Sox GM Ken Williams also receiving votes.

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