Starting Monday, Major League Baseball will expect its umpires to begin enforcing its rules against applying foreign substances to the ball, complete with 10-game suspensions for violators. And while feelings about the new rules are mixed, many pitchers are taking issue with how the league is implementing the regulations.
Several players have publicly aired their issues with the new direction, with many wondering why the league didn’t engage in more dialog with pitchers before deciding on the midseason change.
Cole pleads with MLB to work with players
New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole is among those questioning the new stance. Cole dodged questions about his use of Spider Tack last week, but was open with his criticism following the Yankees’ 3-2 win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday.
“It’s so hard to grip the ball,” Cole said afterwards. “We are aligned in a lot of areas with the commissioner’s office on this … please, just talk to us, please just work with us. I know you have the hammer here. But we’ve been living in a gray area for so long. I would just hate to see players get hurt. I would hate to see balls start flying at peoples’ heads. I had a really tough time gripping the baseball.”
Cole didn’t show any command issues on Wednesday: he walked just one batter over eight innings of work. He has only hit one batter all year long. He also threw his typical percentage of strikes, missing the zone just 34 times over 104 pitches.
But Cole is far from the only pitcher who has a problem with the new foreign substance rules. Red Sox starter Garrett Richards altered his approach in four innings against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday, abandoning his curveball and throwing far more fastballs than normal.
“I’m not going to get caught up in it all, but I’ll definitely say it’s starting to affect people,” Richards told reporters afterward. “If you just watch baseball across the league, you’re going to see some interesting things. Be prepared for four-hour long games and some interesting things. I don’t know. I’m just grateful that I got this far into my career before we’re at this point.”
Midseason foreign substance ban irks pitchers
Tyler Glasnow has already blamed the foreign substance crackdown for a UCL injury. The Tampa Bay Rays starter says he started gripping the ball tighter after he stopped using sunscreen two starts ago.
“I had to put my fastball deeper into my hand and grip it way harder. Instead of holding my curveball at the tip of my fingers, I had to dig it deeper into my hand,” Glasnow said. “Do it in the offseason. Give us a chance to adjust to it. But I just threw 80 innings, then you can’t tell me I can’t use anything in the middle of the year.”
Others have questioned why MLB officials are taking such a hard line on foreign substances after going easy in earlier instances of cheating in baseball.
“It’s hard to see this when you’re giving out 10-game suspensions for cheating but you give the Astros no suspensions at all,” Chicago White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon told NBC Sports Chicago, referencing the Houston cheating scandal. “So if Rob Manfred can look at himself in the mirror and say, ‘Hey, I’m doing the right thing,’ that’s fine. You can’t suspend the team you actually knew was cheating during a playoff game, that’s on you.”