The Phillies added Sam Coonrod this offseason for his triple-digit fastball, but Joe Girardi said “it looked like he threw a change-up” on Tuesday when the reliever airmailed his throw to second base into center field.
Coonrod was trying to start an inning-ending double play, but his error brought home a run and allowed the Braves to score twice more before the eighth inning of a 9-5 loss to Atlanta was finished. It was another late-inning loss for the Phils, who have lost six times this season when leading after seven innings. They are three games below .500 and four games back of first place. Their difficult June is just beginning.
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Girardi hopes MLB crackdown on sticky stuff helps improve offense
Girardi said he inspects every baseball that enters his dugout this season as he tries to get a feel for the foreign substances that pitchers are using for added grip.
The Phillies manager grabs baseballs thrown by his pitchers and the opponents, comparing how sticky the balls are as Major League Baseball plans to crack down this month on pitchers’ manipulating the baseball.
“Some are more [sticky] than others,” Girardi said. “I can tell you that.”
Umpires, according to ESPN, will soon check pitchers repeatedly and randomly for foreign substances, with offenders possibly being suspended for 10 games. Starting pitchers will be checked at least twice per start as they walk to and from the mound.
Players, including Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto, have accused pitchers of using foreign substances such as pine tar and Spider Tack for added grip, which allow pitchers to maximize their spin rates. The average four-seam fastball this season is faster (93.7 mph) than ever and has more spin (2,317 rpm) than in previous seasons.
The league is hoping to curtail the practice, because the dominance by pitchers has led to the worst batting average in major-league history and the highest strikeout rate.
“I actually think it’s a good thing because one of the things we’ve been fighting is the nonaction in our game,” Girardi said. “I think this could change things. I really do. I’m for it because you want everyone always playing on an equal playing field. So I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s going to happen, when it’s going to start. It’s going to be interesting.”
Baseball is trying experimental rule changes this summer in the minor leagues to try to produce offense. Officials will ban shifts at the lower levels and move the mound back a foot in the independent Atlantic League. But Realmuto said last month that they should just focus on the pitchers if they want to increase offense.
“You see pitchers out there all game long doing this,” Realmuto said as he touched his glove hand. “They’re not doing anything about it. I think if they cracked down on that, that would honestly help the offense a lot, get the ball in play more often, and less swing and miss. ... Everyone has swing-and-miss stuff from top to bottom, and it’s not because everyone got so much better in the last three years. To be honest, that stuff helps a lot.”
The league has already started cracking down on minor leaguers, who are not protected by the players’ union. Four Class A pitchers were suspended 10 games last week after being caught doctoring baseballs. Two days later, Minnesota’s Josh Donaldson seemed to accuse Yankees ace Gerrit Cole of using foreign substances.
“Is it coincidence that Gerrit Cole’s spin rate numbers went down after four minor leaguers got suspended for 10 games,” Donaldson said.
Cole said Tuesday that Donaldson’s comments were “low-hanging fruit” but said Donaldson was entitled to his opinion. The pitcher’s spin rate dropped from 2,529 rpms on May 28 to 2,436 rpms on June 3. Cole was asked by the New York Post if he uses Spider Tack, which bills itself as “a super-sticky paste for improving grip on Atlas Stones.” The substance used in Strongman competitions is said to be popular among big-league pitchers.
“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 to 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, and I’ve stood pretty firm in terms of that, in terms of the communication between our peers and what not.”
Girardi said he’s never touched the foreign substances that pitchers are accused of using besides when he inspects another baseball that lands in the dugout. The Phillies rank 23rd this season in average spin rate on four-seam fastballs.
“I often wanted to see what it’s like. But they said sometimes it doesn’t come off for a while and I don’t like that feeling, like when you get Super Glue on your hands and you can’t get it off,” Girardi said. “So I haven’t done it yet and I don’t know where to get it so that’s the other problem. I don’t know where to get it.”
So if Girardi doesn’t know where to get it, does that mean the foreign substances are not in his clubhouse?
“Right,” he said.
The Phillies promoted Luke Williams, who brought eight gloves with him to Philadelphia and can play almost every position.
Scott Kingery cleared waivers after being removed from the 40-man roster. He’ll play nearly every day for triple-A Lehigh Valley in hopes of retooling his swing.
The Phillies need 19-year-old Mick Abel to become an ace, Scott Lauber writes. He reminds one scout of “young Roy Halladay.”
Tonight: Zach Eflin faces Braves left-hander Tucker Davidson, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Zack Wheeler starts series finale vs. right-hander Ian Anderson, 1:05 p.m.
Friday: The Phillies are off.
Saturday: Spencer Howard starts vs. the Yankees, 4:05 p.m.
Sunday: Vince Velasquez finishes two-game series vs. Bronx Bombers, 1:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
Williams’ promotion to the majors Tuesday means he won’t head to Japan for the Olympics after helping Team USA clinch one of the final spots in the Olympic baseball tournament. Baseball is returning to the Olympics this summer for the first time since 2008. The U.S. won the bronze medal that summer with two Phillies minor leaguers — infielder Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson — on the roster. The following summer, the Phillies sent both players to Cleveland as part of the package that netted them Cliff Lee. It was a gold-medal trade.
“I’m so happy for him. He had a chance to help the U.S. reach the Olympics. I’m so happy for him and what he accomplished this year,” said Girardi, who played for Team USA in college and was supposed to manage the Olympic team before he was replaced by Delaware County native Mike Scioscia when the Phillies hired him.
“I got a note from Mike Scioscia about how well he played and how he did things right. He’s a Mike Scioscia type of player. He’s really versatile. He can run and do a lot of different things. I’ve always considered Mike one of the best managers in the game, so coming from him is quite a compliment.”
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: What’s the buzz on Cornelius Randolph? I see he’s hitting .311 any future for our 10th pick in 2015? — Kerry B. via email
Answer: Thanks, Kerry. Randolph was off to a hot start in triple A, but he was placed on the injured list over the weekend because of a sprained elbow. It was promising to see Randolph hit so well with Lehigh Valley after a rough start to his minor-league career. If he returns from the injured list and keeps hitting like that, he’ll have a chance to play his way to Philly this summer. First, he’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster.