ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - J.A. Happ and Alex Cobb stood side by side on Sunday afternoon and called on Major League Baseball to provide pitchers with the option to wear protective head gear.
"Whether that pitcher wants to pitch with head gear or not is up to him but I definitely think there should be an option," said Cobb. "I haven't heard too much but I do know that it's moving in the right direction and hopefully there will be an option by next year."
The league has been studying different prototypes, including caps with enhanced padding, since last offseason. So far nothing has been approved.
"I think you'd be crazy not to look into it if it was available," said Happ. "I think function is the big issue. We were struck in the ear so like I said it would almost have to be a helmet situation. If it was functional and comfortable and didn't hinder the performance at all then absolutely."
Both pitchers are linked by separate, equally scary, incidents at Tropicana Field this season.
It was May 7 when Happ, pitching to Desmond Jennings in the second inning of an eventual 6-4 win, was struck in the side of the head by a line drive. He crumpled to the ground. Onlookers thought he was out cold even though he wasn't, and eventually he was carted off the field.
Happ suffered a minor skull fracture behind his left ear. Stitches repaired a nasty gash to his ear. The worst of his injuries, however, were to his right knee. He suffered strained MCL and PCL ligaments when his leg buckled underneath him. Happ's return, which came exactly three months after the incident, would have been much sooner if not for the knee trouble.
Almost six weeks after Happ was hurt, an Eric Hosmer line drive hit Cobb in the head in the fifth inning of the June 15 Rays-Royals game. Cobb suffered a concussion and had to work through the effects of his head trauma before returning to the majors on Thursday, exactly two months after the incident.
The two men didn't know each other beforehand and since, they've kept in touch via text messages and have struck up a friendship. While neither relied on the other for support through the recovery process, they share a bond very few can understand.
"Not too many people know what you've gone through on a personal level so to know his battles, although they were different, they were almost more severe and more troublesome in some cases with his knee," said Cobb. "It's really nice to see him back out on a big league field and pitching well, too."
Happ happened to be watching at the time Cobb was injured.
"It was just such a surreal thing," said Happ. "Again, just to see him and be able to catch up and see that the healing has taken place, that's the biggest thing. Definitely a scare with some of the issues that he had to deal with that I didn't.
"He had a little bit more to overcome in that sense and really glad to see he was able to do that."