OAKLAND -- For years now, the debate over the use of maple bats has been ongoing within the baseball community.
It was reprised Friday night, as Oakland reliever Brad Ziegler was struck by a large portion of Mike Napoli's broken bat in the ninth inning of an 8-0 A's win. Ziegler had a deep scratch and a bruise on his back below his right shoulder, but was able to stay in the game and finish the inning. He received a new bandage and ointment before Saturday's matinee and said he would be a game-time decision.
"It really feels like it's starting to tighten up today," Ziegler said Saturday.
As Oakland manager Bob Geren pointed out Friday, had Napoli's bat rotated another 10 or 20 degrees before it struck Ziegler, it could have done more damage or even impaled the reliever. Napoli said he was using a maple bat from maker SSK on Friday.
"That's one of the things we've been talking about with maple bats for a long time, the inherent danger," Ziegler said. "It didn't seem like bats broke like that -- with the barrel end flying all the time -- 10, 15 years ago. Now that's happening a lot, almost every game or every other game. It was just a matter of time before someone got hit with one, I just wish it wasn't me."
Maple bats have become more prevalent in baseball over the past couple of decades, replacing ash bats. Although maple bats can pack more punch than their ash counterparts, maple bats tend to break in fuller shards as opposed to flaking like ash ones.
Some have even said pitchers should wear protective headgear on the mound. Asked whether he would support such a measure, Geren said, "If there was something available and a pitcher wanted to, I would have no problem with it."