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Mets manager Luis Rojas concerned that foreign substance ban for pitchers could affect safety

Mets manager Luis Rojas look on from the

Mets manager Luis Rojas look on from the dugout against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field on Saturday, June 12, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Luis Rojas doesn’t believe MLB’s new dedication to enforcing the rule that prohibits pitchers from using a foreign substance on baseballs will significantly impact performance, though he did express concerns that it could compromise player safety.

Baseball Tuesday sent out a memo about the use of "sticky stuff" – anything from specialized gripping materials like Spider Tack to simply mixing sunscreen with rosin – and said any pitcher found using a foreign substance will face a 10-day suspension. MLB has long had a rule banning foreign materials but it has rarely been enforced, with umpires calling out only the most egregious and obvious offenders. Repeat offenders could face heftier punishments, the memo said.

"For me, personally I don’t think it’s going to change much," Rojas said. "I’m aware of guys trying to find a grip, just because for me personally, I don’t want to see a guy like Kevin Pillar get hit. I don’t want to see a guy like [Pete] Alonso the other day who got hit. I think for command purposes, like when it’s really cold, there’s been some things used in the past. I’m not saying that I’m aware of anyone who has been doing it here, but I [even use it] for myself doing batting practice. I’ve used it, so I don’t sail a ball and hit a guy, so I don’t know how it’s going to change. I don’t have full clarity there."

Rojas said baseball called a meeting with all 30 major-league managers Tuesday morning to explain the rules. It lasted about 15 minutes and was led by Michael Hill, vice president of on-field operations and the league’s top disciplinarian, and Theo Epstein, now a consultant with the league.

 

All this comes during a season in which spin rates, velocity and general domination by the game’s pitchers have defined the sport, while batting averages have dipped to near-historic lows (.238 leaguewide going into Tuesday, according to Baseball Reference). The rule is set to go into effect on Monday, and all in-game pitchers will be checked, some numerous times.

The Mets manager said he would have further discussions with his squad and help provide clarity to those who need it. The team, though, hasn’t been overly concerned with the use of tacky substances, Rojas said.

"Talking around to a lot batters, they don’t care," he said. "Guys have been very quiet about it. They’re not as animated or talking about pitchers or who’s using anything or who’s a suspect or anything like that. We haven’t been distracted by this."

Rojas did reiterate his concern about player safety. In the memo, MLB said it found no correlation between the use of sticky stuff and a decrease in the number of hit batsmen. In fact, the rate of hit batsman is at a 100-year, alltime high (it’s not clear, however, if this is simply because of the prevalent style of pitching).

Rojas said he thought the league would probably be better off developing a universal substance, rather than banning everything completely.

They should have "one thing that could help the guys grip better that’s not giving a competitive advantage for the safety purpose," he said. "That’s my only concern…I don’t know much about how a substance spikes stuff but from the command standpoint I hope they develop something that the guys can use so they command the ball better and you have less hit by pitches [that could] probably compromise a player’s career."

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