MLB asks umpires for heightened sticky substance checks

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – Major League Baseball is heightening in-game inspections by umpires for banned grip aides, concerned that use of foreign substances by pitchers increased again as time passed from a crackdown begun in June 2021.

“Unfortunately, spin rates began to rise again during the 2022 season and we received reports of continued use of foreign substances on the field,” MLB senior vice president of on-field operations Michael Hill wrote Thursday in a memo.

“Umpires have been instructed to increase the frequency and scope of foreign substance checks this year, including randomized checks of fingers (including removal of rings worn on either hand of pitchers), hands, hats, gloves, belts/waistlines, and pants,” Hill said. “Pitchers may be subject to checks before or after innings in which they pitch, and managers may make inspection requests of a pitcher or position player either before or after an at-bat.”

Hill sent the memo to owners, CEOs, team presidents, general managers, field managers and all major and minor league players. The memo was first reported by ESPN.

“Umpires also will be focused on suspicious behavior by players that suggests the potential use of foreign substances,” Hill wrote. “For example, if an umpire observes a pitcher attempting to wipe off his hands prior to an inspection, the player may be subject to immediate ejection for violating the rules by attempting to conceal a foreign substance.”

Word of the crackdown emerged from an owners meeting on June 3, 2021, and heightened checks started that June 21. Four-seam fastballs averaged 2,319 revolutions per minute through that June 2, then dropped to 2,251 for the rest of the season before rising to 2,276 last year, according to Statcast data. Average velocity of four-seam fastballs increased from 93.7 mph in 2021 to 93.9 mph last year.

Only two pitchers have been suspended for foreign substances since the checks started. Seattle’s Héctor Santiago was penalized that June 28 and Arizona’s Caleb Smith that Aug. 24, both for 10 games.

“A player who possesses or applies foreign substances in violation of the playing rules is subject to immediate ejection from the game and will be suspended automatically,” Hill wrote. “If a player other than the pitcher is found to have applied a foreign substance to the baseball (e.g., the catcher applies a foreign substance to the baseball before throwing it back to the pitcher), both the position player and pitcher will be ejected; however, position players will not be ejected for having a foreign substance on their glove or uniform unless the umpire determines that the player was applying the substance to the ball in order to aid the pitcher.”

MLB threatened to be harsher with repeat offenders.

“Players who are found to have used a foreign substance following a prior suspension for violating the rule will be subject to more severe, progressive discipline for each subsequent violation,” Hill said.

Hill threatened “severe discipline” for club employees who assist players in using banned grip aides.

“Clubs will be held accountable for any foreign substances discovered in any club area (e.g., clubhouse, tunnel, dugout, bullpen, etc.),” he wrote. “Each club must inform its clubhouse managers and clubhouse attendants that they are obligated to report to the general manager any foreign substances that are discovered in the clubhouse or other areas of the stadium. Please note that the pitcher’s bag and bullpen bag have been a frequent source identified by the Gameday Compliance Monitors (“GCMs”) as carrying foreign substances.”

In an effort to create more uniform ball conditions, MLB made humidors mandatory for ball storage starting last season. Balls must be kept in them for at least 14 days, and Hill said the temperature must be set at 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) with 57% humidity, except for 65% at mile-high Coors Field. Procedures for removing balls for humidors and rubbing them with mud was standardized last June.

U.S. routs Cuba 14-2 to reach World Baseball Classic final

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MIAMI — Trea Turner and Paul Goldschmidt and an unrelenting U.S. lineup kept putting crooked numbers on the scoreboard, a dynamic display of the huge gap between an American team of major leaguers and Cubans struggling on the world stage as top players have left the island nation.

Turner homered twice to give him a tournament-leading four, driving in four runs to lead the U.S. to a 14-2 rout Sunday night and advance the defending champion Americans to the World Baseball Classic final.

Goldschmidt also homered and had four RBIs and Cedric Mullins went deep in a game interrupted three times by fans running on the field to display protest signs.

“The team kind of represents the government over there, and people aren’t too happy about it,” U.S. manager Mark DeRosa said.

The U.S. plays Japan or Mexico in Tuesday night’s championship, trying to join the Samurai Warriors as the only nations to win the title twice.

“I think it took us a little bit of time, but now we kind of found our stride a little bit,” Turner said.

Turner has a tournament-leading 10 RBIs. He followed his go-ahead, eighth-inning grand slam a night earlier against Venezuela with a solo homer in the second inning off Roenis Elias (0-1) and a three-run drive in the sixth against Elian Leyva.

“I kept saying every time he went deep, who is the idiot that’s hitting him ninth?” DeRosa said.

Cuba went ahead when its first four batters reached off Adam Wainwright (2-0) without getting a ball out of the infield. The 41-year-old right-hander recovered to strand the bases loaded.

“I put myself in that situation in the first place by making horrible PFP plays — or not making PFP plays,” Wainwright said in a reference to pitchers’ fielding practice.

American batters had 14 hits, including eight for extra bases, and seven walks. Goldschmidt hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the first on a 112 mph rocket high over the left-field wall. He added a two-run single in the fifth.

“For me that was one of my favorite home runs I’ve ever hit in my entire life,” Goldschmidt said.

St. Louis third baseman Nolan Arenado left after he was hit on a hand by a pitch in the fifth inning, briefly raising another injury concern before X-rays came back as negative. Mets closer Edwin Díaz sustained a season-ending knee injury during the celebration that followed Puerto Rico’s win on Wednesday and Houston second baseman Jose Altuve broke a thumb when hit by a pitch while playing for Venezuela on Saturday.

Fans in the sellout crowd of 35,779 at loanDepot Park sounded evenly split between the U.S. and Cuba. Several hundred people gathered before the game outside the ballpark in Miami’s Little Havana section to protest the presence of the Cuban team, whose island nation has been under communist rule since 1959.

Play was briefly interrupted in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings when fans ran onto the field. The first held a banner that read “Libertad Para Los Presos Cubanos del 11 de Julio (Freedom for the Cuban Prisoners of July 11)” referring to the date of 2021 demonstrations.

“There were provocations, but we never paid attention to it,” Cuba manager Armando Johnson said.

Cuban fans roared in the early going when their team’s first four batters strung together three infield hits and a bases-loaded walk. Wainwright allowed one run and five hits in four innings. Cardinals teammate Miles Mikolas followed with four innings and Aaron Loup finished.

An Olympic gold medalist in 1992, 1996 and 2004, Cuba’s national team has struggled in recent years as many top players left for MLB. Cuba failed to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Cuba for the first time this year is using some players under contract to MLB clubs, including Chicago White Sox Gold Glove centerfielder Luis Robert and third baseman Yoán Moncada — who were booed. But many Cuban big leaguers were absent.

“We would like for the other players to join,” Johnson said. “They should think about it and return to Cuba.”


DeRosa on what he did after Saturday night’s come-from-behind quarterfinal win over Venezuela.

“I was reading how horrible a manager I was on social media first,” he said.


In the other semifinal, Japan starts 21-year-old sensation Roki Sasaki against Mexico and the Los Angeles Angels’ Patrick Sandoval on Monday night.


Moncada left after the third baseman collided in the sixth inning with left fielder Roel Santos, who caught Kyle Schwarber’s fly. Moncada was hit on the ribs but is OK, Johnson said.


Arizona RHP Merrill Kelly is likely to start the final.