Mariners’ Hector Santiago suspended 10 games for foreign substance

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
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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.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

aaron judge
Cole Burston/Getty Images
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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.