Major League Baseball is beginning to crack down this month on pitchers using foreign substances as many players — including Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto — have accused pitchers of doctoring baseballs.
Umpires, according to ESPN, will 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.
A memo, ESPN said, could be sent to teams this week detailing the league’s plan to curtail the use of substances, such as pine tar for added grip. The enforcement could begin within the next two weeks.
It seems like baseball is taking a strong approach to an issue that has quickly grown into a hot-button issue this season. But Bryce Harper is going to wait and see what happens.
“My only question is, ‘Are they really going to do it?’ That’s all I ask,” Harper said Saturday.
Foreign substances allow pitchers to increase the spin on their pitches, which is an added advantage. The average four-seam fastball this season is faster (93.6 mph) than ever and has more spin (2,317 rpm) than previous seasons. Pitchers have dominated hitters as offenses are hitting just .236 — the worst mark in MLB history — and striking out 24.1%of the time.
“You see pitchers out there all game long doing this,” Realmuto said last month 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.”
“Let the hitters take steroids,” Realmuto said with a laugh. “And they can do that.”
MLB sent a memo to teams during spring training, warning them that baseballs and other equipment would be collected during the season because the use of foreign substances had become so rampant. But that was not enough to discourage pitchers, which prompted the league to begin planning for stricter enforcement.
“We’ll see what happens,” Harper said.
Didi Gregorius took batting practice before Saturday’s game and his elbow is no longer swollen, but the shortstop is unsure when he’ll be able to return from the injured list. He has not played since May 12. Gregorius said his long layoff will require a rehab assignment before returning.
Gregorius’ swollen right elbow did not prevent him from throwing, but he was unable to swing a bat until this week. Saturday’s full batting practice session was an important step. Joe Girardi said the Phillies will reevaluate Gregorius on Sunday.
Hector Neris was placed on the paternity list before the game. ... Vince Velasquez will start Sunday’s series finale. The Nationals have not yet announced a starting pitcher. ... The Phillies awarded May’s minor-league awards to double-A Reading infielder Bryson Stott (hitter), triple-A Lehigh Valley infielder/outfielder Luke Williams (defender), and triple-A left-hander Bailey Falter (pitcher.)