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 in Nashville, Tenn.. 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 5 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.

"We're not going to force them on anyone," MLB senior vice president Dan Halem said Monday.

Halem had said baseball already was looking at options when McCarthy was hit in the head by a line drive in September. The Oakland pitcher was hospitalized with a skull fracture and brain contusion.

Fister was hit in the head by a liner in Game 2 of the World Series. The ball flew 150 feet into centerfield and, after Fister was examined by a Detroit trainer, he stayed in for several more innings against San Francisco.

Noteworthy * 

Alex Rodriguez will start the season in what's become a familiar place: the disabled list.

The New York Yankees said the third baseman will have surgery on his left hip, an injury that could sideline him until the All-Star break and may explain his spectacularly poor performance during the playoffs.

A 14-time All-Star and baseball's priciest player at $275 million, Rodriguez has a torn labrum, bone impingement and a cyst. He will need 4 to 6 weeks of physical therapy to strengthen the hip before surgery, and the team anticipates he will be sidelined 4 to 6 months after the operation.

Meanwhile, shortstop Derek Jeter, coming off surgery to repair a broken ankle, said he expects to be ready by Opening Day.

* FormerPhillies outfielder Lenny Dykstra was sentenced to 6 1/2 months in prison for hiding baseball gloves and other heirlooms from his playing days that were supposed to be part of his bankruptcy filing, capping a tumultuous year of legal woes.

U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson also ordered Dykstra to pay $200,000 in restitution and perform 500 hours of community service. Dykstra pleaded guilty to bankruptcy-fraud and money-laundering charges and prosecutors were asking for a 2 1/2-year prison sentence.

Dykstra, 49, is currently serving a 3-year prison sentence after pleading no contest to grand theft auto and providing a false financial statement.

He also was sentenced this year to 9 months in jail after pleading no contest to charges he exposed himself to women he met through Craigslist.

* Former Phillies first baseman John Kruk, a member of ESPN's studio team since 2004, was announced as the new partner of Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser on Sunday night telecasts.

* Catcher Mike Napoli and the Boston Red Sox reportedly agreed to a $39 million, 3-year contract. Meanwhile, catcher Geovany Soto reportedly has agreed to a 1-year, $2.75 million deal to remain with Texas . . . First baseman James Loney and the Tampa Bay Rays reportedly have agreed to a $2 million, 1-year contract . . . Righthander Jason Marquis will stay with the San Diego Padres, reaching a $3 million, 1-year deal.

* Former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, longtime umpire Hank O'Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White were elected to the Hall of Fame for their excellence through the first half of the 20th century. The trio was picked by the Hall's pre-integration panel - part of what once was known as the Veterans Committee.