Not much has changed for the Phillies in the three weeks they’ve played with Brandon Kintzler on the injured list. Their bullpen is still hard to trust, they’re still under .500, and they’re still a handful of games out of a playoff spot.
But much has changed for pitchers since June 6 as umpires have started this month to inspect them on the mound for foreign substances. And Kintzler, who could undergo his first inspection as early as Thursday, loves it.
“I think it’s great. I’ve never used it in my life. The cream rises to the top now,” said Kintzler, a right-handed reliever. “The excuses I hear are amazing. I think it’s ridiculous. We grew up throwing without that stuff and now all of a sudden everyone is dying without it. I think it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I think it’s great. Everyone who thought they were good, they’re not so good anymore.”
Major League Baseball started to crack down on pitchers using sticky substances like sunscreen, pine tar, and Spider Tack to gain added grip on the pitches and maximize their spin rates. Only one pitcher — Seattle’s Hector Santiago — has been caught by an umpire, and he is on a 10-game paid suspension.
“Some guys really can’t throw without it. I can promise you that. There’s some guys I heard who said they can’t throw a slider or something without it. Now we’re starting to see it,” Kintzler said. “A sinker, I need that thing to slide. My changeup needs to slide. I don’t throw a lot of sliders, so it would be obvious if I was reaching for something to throw a slider. I always say I want my sinker to slid so I don’t need any stickiness or else I’d be spiking it. It’s just not worth it. I need less spin anyway. Less spin the better for me.”
Kintzler made the Phillies as a non-roster invitee to spring training. He led the National League in saves last season with Miami and posted a 2.55 ERA in the last two seasons. But he had a 8.50 ERA in 20 appearances before being placed on the injured list earlier this month with a strained neck.
“It was terrible. I couldn’t even see the catcher,” Kintzler said. “I had to change my arm slot every day.”
He thinks his neck injury was a result of the COVID-19 vaccination he received during the first week of the season. “My body just kind of shut down. I was messed up for a while,” Kintzler said.
Kintzler had the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, felt wiped out, and then faced eight batters in an outing that spanned two innings.
“I think everyone should recover for a week from that thing,” Kintzler said. “Archie [Bradley] strained his oblique after it. [Matt] Joyce had back problems. There has to be some science behind it.”
Kintzler pitched for six weeks with a sore neck, which he said caused his back to lock up.
“You’re just not yourself but you’re just trying to be a veteran and try to do your thing. I think we’ve all pitched with pain all our lives but you don’t know if it’s pain that you can do or not. Once you see them do a full-body scan on you, you realize how messed up you are. I’m not 25. I can’t rotate with pain anymore. I’m 36 and when you can’t rotate with pain, you have to rotate. The training staff did an awesome job”
Kintzler made two rehab appearances with triple-A Lehigh Valley and said he feels like he’s ready to return to the majors. He could be activated as early as Wednesday. The Phillies are still in the same position. But they could use a reliable reliever.
“I could help. A healthy me would be really nice to help these guys,” Kintzler said. “I think my experience would definitely take the load off of them. Just be myself. I don’t need to be a hero. I just need to be a healthy Kintzler instead of a messed-up one.”
Chase Anderson pitched Wednesday night in triple A on a rehab assignment. Anderson is on the COVID-19 injured list. ... Didi Gregorius may rejoin the Phillies this weekend as he continues to rehab his sore elbow with triple A. ... Zach Eflin will start Thursday’s series finale against Miami right-hander Pablo Lopez.