Major League Baseball on Monday began its crackdown against pitchers applying foreign substances to baseballs. Pitchers were checked randomly by umpires between innings.
The Phillies were off on Monday so Joe Girardi watched Day 1 of the great enforcement on television.
“I saw them check gloves and hats and belts,” the Phillies manager said.
Girardi admitted that he was interested to see the procedure in person Tuesday night as the Phillies opened a two-game series with the Washington Nationals. Zack Wheeler and Max Scherzer were the scheduled starters.
Applying foreign substances to baseballs or altering them in any way has long been illegal in the game. The advent of super-sticky substances that improve torque and spin rate has led to MLB’s beefing up the enforcement of the rule.
A pitcher is subject to ejection and a 10-game suspension if caught doctoring a baseball. In addition to random checks by umpires, pitchers can be examined at the request of an opposing manager. Managers have long had that right but seldom use it. Now, more might be inclined to. But some might not.
Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker was asked if he would request that an umpire inspect an opposing pitcher.
“Probably not,” he told FOX 26 in Houston. “I’m from a different generation. Probably not. You just open a can of worms because they’re going to check yours and it’s a never-ending cycle of distractions.”
What about Girardi?
Would he ask an umpire to check a pitcher?
“I think you have to think about it if you suspect it, yeah,” he said before Tuesday night’s game. “I would hope, though, that if they see something that’s a repetitive action, the umpires would check.”
Girardi will not employ any gamesmanship. He will only ask an umpire to check a pitcher if he sees a good reason to.
“I’m not going to play games,” he said. “That’s silly. It’s just if you see something that’s clear cut, you’ll probably ask them.”
MLB first warned pitchers against using foreign substances back in March and Phillies pitchers were reminded in spring training that a larger crackdown was possible.
The Phillies will need a starting pitcher to pair with Aaron Nola for Friday’s doubleheader against the Mets in New York. Girardi said it was too early to tell who that pitcher would be. Spencer Howard and Matt Moore are possibilities. Moore would have to come off the injured list if he was the guy.
“It all depends on what happens the next couple of days (against Washington),” Girardi said.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius, out since May 13 with inflammation in his right elbow, is once again taking ground balls and hitting in the cage. His minor-league rehab stint was paused earlier this month when he had a flare-up. Girardi said he hoped Gregorius would start playing at Triple A again “shortly.”