NEW YORK — Seattle Mariners pitcher Hector Santiago became the first player disciplined under Major League Baseball’s crackdown on grip-enhancing foreign substances, given a 10-game suspension.
Michael Hill, the former Marlins general manager who is senior vice president for on-field operations, announced the penalty two days after Santiago was ejected from a game at the Chicago White Sox. Santiago also was fined an undisclosed amount.
He appealed the decision to MLB special adviser John McHale Jr., and the suspension will be delayed until the appeal is decided.
Seattle manager Scott Servais insisted before Tuesday’s game against Toronto that there was no foreign substance on Santiago’s glove and that it was rosin.
“It was rosin and rosin is behind the pitcher’s mound, so it’s not foreign. It’s not a foreign substance,” Servais said. “So I am surprised, to some degree. But I understand what Major League Baseball is trying to do, they’re trying to create a level playing field and understand why they decided to do this in the middle of the season.”
Santiago, a 33-year-old left-hander, is in his 10th major league season, his first with the Mariners.
His suspension is with pay. Santiago’s contract calls for a $700,000 salary while in the major leagues and $150,000 while in the minors.
Under a crackdown that started June 21, all pitchers are being checked by umpires during games for illicit grip aids and Santiago was examined as he exited in the fifth inning.
Crew chief Tom Hallion said then that Santiago was ejected for “having a foreign substance that was sticky on the inside palm of his glove.” The pitcher said what the umpires found was a combination of rosin and sweat.
Santiago started this season at Triple-A and made his big league season debut with the Mariners on June 1. He is 1-1 with a 2.65 ERA in nine games.
Seattle will not be allowed to fill Santiago’s spot on its 26-man roster roster during a suspension and will play a man short while a penalty is served.
Servais said in his history with Santiago – both in Seattle and with the Los Angeles Angels – he found the pitcher to be a proponent with fellow players not to use foreign substances and to use only rosin.
“When we are doing the right thing, we’re following the rule and then lo and behold something like this happens,” Servais said. “Again, it is going through the appeal process and we’ll wait and see where it goes from there.”
Baseball officials, concerned about offense that dropped to its lowest level in 50 years, first mentioned the crackdown on June 3, and Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the start date on June 15.
“It has become clear that the use of foreign substance has generally morphed from trying to get a better grip on the ball into something else – an unfair competitive advantage that is creating a lack of action and an uneven playing field,” he said.
The average spin rate of pitches has declined since June 3.