NEW YORK — Pitchers will be ejected and suspended for 10 games for using illegal foreign substances to doctor baseballs in a crackdown by Major League Baseball that will start Monday.
The commissioner’s office, responding to record strikeouts and a league batting average at a more than half-century low, said Tuesday that major and minor league umpires will start regular checks of all pitchers, even if opposing managers don’t request inspections.
While suspensions would be with pay, repeat offenders would receive progressive discipline, and teams and club employees would be subject to discipline for failure to comply.
“After an extensive process of repeated warnings without effect, gathering information from current and former players and others across the sport, two months of comprehensive data collection, listening to our fans and thoughtful deliberation, I have determined that new enforcement of foreign substances is needed to level the playing field," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.
The perception of an increased use of foreign substances, tied to a drop in offense, is viewed as the largest instance of widespread cheating in baseball since the rise of steroids, which ended in the adoption of random drug testing with penalties ahead of the 2004 season.
Executive vice president for operations Morgan Sword, MLB senior vice president for on-field operations Mike Hill and consultant Theo Epstein outlined the increased enforcement during a 15-minute electronic meeting Tuesday with the 30 managers.
Tampa Bay pitcher Tyler Glasnow, diagnosed Tuesday with a partially torn elbow ligament, attributed his injury to adapting ahead of stepped up enforcement.
“To tell us to do something completely different in a middle of a season is insane. It’s ridiculous. There has to be some give and take here," he said.
“You can’t just take away everything and not add something. Pitchers need to be able to have some sort of control or some sort of grip on the ball. ... I don’t want a fastball to sail away and hit somebody in the face like it already has," he said.
Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, singled out by Minnesota's Josh Donaldson for a drop in spin rate in a June 3 start, dodged a question last week about whether he had ever used a Spider Tack, a sticky substance designed for use by Strongman competitors.
“I don’t quite know how to answer that, to be honest,” Cole said. “There are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players, from the last generation of players to this generation of players, and I think there are some things that are certainly out of bounds in that regard.”
Glasnow said he had been using sunscreen and rosin but changed for his June 8 start against Washington. He switched grips on his fastball and curveball to compensate for slickness of the balls, and he held on more tightly and more deeply.
“I went cold turkey, nothing,” he said. “I woke up the next day and was like, I am sore in places that I didn’t even know I had muscles in. Like I felt completely different.”
He concluded: “I 100% believe that contributed to me getting hurt. No doubt."