Cubs pitcher Adbert Alzolay pulled off his hat and glove for two umpires to inspect in front of the Cubs dugout. Seconds later, they were done.
Major League Baseball launched its enforcement plan against foreign substances on Monday. For the first time, umpires around the league inspected each pitcher for sticky stuff on their person, in an effort to stamp out the use of substances that enhance spin rate.
“I think they're doing the right thing,” Cubs pitching coach tommy Hottovy told NBC Sports Chicago. “I think the goal is to get rid of the crazy sticky stuff.”
MLB’s crackdown, however, is overarching and includes everything from more adhesive substances like Spider Tack to more traditional mixtures like rosin and sunscreen.
“If something does go awry or something goes down, there's an appeals process just like any other suspension or any kind of other ejection,” Ross said before Monday’s game. “So, we've got a safety net if there's a misunderstanding or something gets misconstrued.
“But you also have to trust in the umpires, that the veteran umpires are the only ones that are going to be (making these calls). And I think for the integrity of the game, they're going to try to uphold that, try to make sure that they're going to err on the side of what's best for baseball and trying to nip the cheating in the bud.”
Ross added that MLB was working on a legal substance to put on the ball to give pitchers a uniform grip. The timeline for that new wrinkle, however, is unclear.
“It was something that was coming,” Cubs MLB Players Association representative Ian Happ said of the foreign substance crackdown in a conversation with NBC Sports Chicago. “Could have been handled before this year, probably, and given guys some time to adjust.
“But, I think we as players will continue to adjust. … Hopefully the pitchers will be able to figure it out because it's something that’s been part of the rules. It's something that should be enforced. And I think the game will be better for it in the long run.”
On Monday at Wrigley Field, the umpire crew made substance checks efficient and between innings. Alzolay’s was the first of the night, and Ross joined the huddle as the rookie pitcher went through the process.
“It was normal, it was easy,” Alzolay said. “It wasn't too much problem or anything.”
The umpires facilitated most checks as the pitchers walked off the mound and to the dugout. But in the bottom of the ninth, Cleveland closer James Karinchak jogged up to the mound from the bullpen with his hat and glove in hand. The pre-outing check helped avoid the chaos of a postgame screening.
“They were very much engaging and appreciated everybody taking the time and being patient with the new rules,” Ross said. “… I thought (third base umpire) Hunter (Wendelstedt) and this group did a really nice job of walking us into these new protocols.”