Mets’ Jacob deGrom first pitcher checked for foreign substances under new MLB protocol

MLB’s best pitcher also was the first to get closely inspected by umpires suddenly tasked with enforcing sticky-substance cheating rules.

MLB’s best pitcher also was the first to get closely inspected by umpires suddenly tasked with enforcing sticky-substance cheating rules.

No, Jacob deGrom did not do anything out of the ordinary to raise suspicion. This was about coincidence and baseball’s new normal.

Because the Mets were home and starting the first game of a doubleheader against the Braves about two hours before any other first pitch around the league, deGrom was the first subjected to the close checks that MLB warned teams went into place Monday.

After deGrom retired the Braves in order in the top of the first inning, three umpires, including home plate’s Ben May and crew chief Ron Kulpa, cornered him before he reached the dugout to look at his glove, hat and belt. The Citi Field crowd booed and then cheered when deGrom was cleared.

The inspections are a result of the firestorm over the last few weeks created by batters – namely, Twins slugger Josh Donaldson – reacting to the increase in pitchers’ spin rates and the decrease in scoring.

DeGrom and the Mets were thrown into the fire because the unusual 5 p.m. start time happened under the 84-degree sun.

“It’s been out there that the mix of sunscreen and rosin creates better grip,” manager Luis Rojas said before the game. “[Sunday] we played a day game in Washington and I’m sure a lot of guys were using sunscreen. Just the balance there of what’s going to happen if some of that just happens to find its way onto the ball, not necessarily with rosin. What if it gets to that point?”

Umpires check the glove, hat and belt of Mets ace Jacob deGrom after the top of the first inning on June 21, 2021.
Robert Sabo

Players deemed to be cheats are subject to a 10-game suspension. The rules in place for decades weren’t recently changed but the longtime handshake agreement to overlook textbook violations because pitchers supposedly use substances to enhance grip seems to be finished.

“I’m curious to see how the field umpires will go, ‘OK, this wasn’t on purpose,’ or a player doesn’t get the penalty,” Rojas said. “I’m curious to get through this outing one way or the other, and then we’ll have our say if we see something we don’t like.”

Jacob deGrom hands his glove over to an umpire after the top of the first inning.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

DeGrom made the start after leaving his last two early with elbow and shoulder pain, respectively. The two-time Cy Young Award winner’s 0.54 ERA was the lowest by a pitcher through 11 starts since earned runs became an official stat in 1912.

Rojas said he participated in multiple meetings with MLB last week that were clear about reinforcing rules prohibiting foreign substances on the ball. He relayed the message to his team to limit surprises.

Umpires inspect Jacob deGrom for foreign substances.
Robert Sabo

“It’s going to be a little different than what’s been,” Rojas said. “They are going to check different areas where they figure some of the substances are being put throughout the game. The clarification I gave the guys was how things are going to be handled on the field and not to react to it but rather just go with it and let them do what they need to do.”

It is unknown how the random checks will interrupt the pace of the game, especially if an ace like deGrom is cruising. Was Rojas planning to ask umpires when his suspicions were raised?

“I can’t say yes, I can’t say no,” Rojas said. “When you are in games, you are just paying attention to so many different things. If it happens and I see it and it’s obvious, I’m going to say yes. But I don’t think it’s going to be something I’m going to be thoroughly looking at starting tonight.”

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Ryan Dunleavy

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