Max Scherzer stood, scowl on his face, hat and glove held out to each side. An umpire perused those offerings, part of MLB’s new procedure to ensure pitchers don’t use foreign substances, and Scherzer was clearly irked.
That would be just the first of three checks inside the first four innings of Tuesday night’s game between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies. With one out in the fourth inning, Phillies manager Joe Girardi requested the umpires check Scherzer again for a foreign substance after Scherzer struck out Alec Bohm.
That prompted the most animated response yet from Scherzer, who dropped his hat and glove to the ground and began taking off his belt so the umpires could fully inspect him — pants and all, apparently. Then Nationals manager Dave Martinez strode to the mound, arguing with the umpires and exchanging words with Girardi.
The umpires didn’t find anything on Scherzer. According to Hannah Keyser of Yahoo Sports, MLB sent a memo last week saying managers who requested checks in “bad faith” would face discipline.
“Please note that a manager will be subject to discipline if he makes the request in bad faith (e.g., a request intended to disrupt the pitcher in a critical game situation, a routine request that is not based on observable evidence, etc.),” the memo read, according to Keyser.
It remains to be seen if MLB deems Girardi’s request in bad faith, and what sort of discipline might come from that.
After Scherzer completed the fifth inning, having allowed one run on two hits with eight strikeouts, the right-hander stared toward the Phillies’ dugout.
That seemed to agitate Girardi, who exited the dugout and screamed “Let’s go!” to Scherzer, according to Dan Kolko. The Nationals’ dugout, in turn, didn’t approach. But Scherzer held up his hat and glove to Girardi, as if showing him there was no foreign substance to be found, and Girardi was ejected from the game.
MLB has imposed checks for foreign substances to “level the playing field,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement when announcing the conditions. Pitchers can still use rosin, but substances such as Spider Tack or even sunscreen mixed with rosin are banned in an attempt to lower spin rate and velocity while also revitalizing the offense that has seemingly been diminished by pitchers using tacky substances for better grips.
Starting pitchers have more than one mandatory check per game. Relievers will be checked at the end of an inning or when they’re removed, whichever happens first. Umpires will check a pitcher’s hat, glove and fingertips, according to MLB’s release, although Tuesday showed the checks were more invasive — with Scherzer undoing his belt.
Should any pitcher be found using foreign substances, he will be ejected and suspended 10 games.