There’s an epidemic-like problem facing pitchers in Major League Baseball, and this one has nothing to do with arms, elbows or shoulders.

The scariest thing that can happen to a pitcher is getting hit by a comebacker in the head or face, which is what occurred Tuesday evening when a line drive rocketed off the bat of the Chicago White Sox‘s Melky Cabrera in the top of the first inning and struck Carlos Carrasco squarely in the left jaw area.

The worrisome scene played out with the Cleveland Indians right-hander laying on the ground for several minutes before he got up with the help of trainers—but mostly under his own power—and then was carted off the field.’s Jordan Bastian described the scene:

As serious, ubiquitous and career-threatening as Tommy John surgery can be for pitchers, a batted ball sent screaming back at the head is much worse.

That threatens not just one’s career but one’s life. 

Carrasco, fresh off signing his four-year, $22 million extension last week, was one of the best pitchers in baseball over the final two months of 2014 and a dark-horse Cy Young candidate this year. Now his season could be in doubt, to say nothing of his well-being, had he been hit in just the wrong spot or by an even harder-struck ball.

With the necessary warning that this may be hard to watch, here’s replay footage of the incident in real time, via Josh Hill of FanSided:

And this version, from SideLeague, reveals replays from different angles to show just how hard, if not impossible, it is for a pitcher to react in time to defend himself from impact, because a batted ball comes out faster than it goes in:

Here’s what’s scary: The 28-year-old Carrasco is far from the only pitcher to suffer this fate even in just the past few years.

Others to have been hit in the head recently include Aroldis Chapman, Brandon McCarthy, Alex Cobb, J.A. Happ, Dan Jennings and Juan Nicasio, each episode seemingly scarier than the previous one.

Heck, just this spring training, none other than the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, misjudged a soft liner back to him that wound up striking him in the face.

Because it wasn’t hit all that hard, Kershaw actually stayed in the game and merely needed some minor dental work afterward. But that doesn’t make that particular incident—or the recent rash of them—any less scary.

At the time, Kershaw had this to say, via Eric Stephen of True Blue LA, about those oversized (and let’s face it, somewhat awkward) protective caps that have been tested out by and approved for pitchers in the wake of all of these comebackers: “You look like Mario from Nintendo. I’m not a huge appearance guy, but I don’t know if I could take myself seriously.”

Maybe it’s time for pitchers to start worrying more about their safety and wearing something to protect themselves, regardless of the style or appearance, as long as it doesn’t impact their ability to do their job.

Otherwise, baseball needs to figure out a better way to protect pitchers, even if it means spending some money to solve the problem.

The head isn’t something to skimp on.

Of course, were Carrasco wearing that cumbersome current cap, he likely would not have been safe, given where and how the ball struck him.

The fact of the matter is there really isn’t an easy answer, if there is one at all, when it comes to protecting pitchers—who are much closer than 60 feet, six inches away upon release—from a hard hit ball right back at them.

Now that is scary.


Statistics are accurate through Tuesday, April 14, and courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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