Major League Baseball is cracking down on its pitchers, and as a result, they’re now under a microscope during every start.
In the last week, the league’s plan to implement random and repeated check-ins to ensure balls aren’t being doctored and pitchers aren’t using foreign substances to gain advantage was publicized after a recent owners meeting.
It’s caused a bit of a controversy, and is putting pitchers in an awkward position. And with the Red Sox staff struggling on the mound in the last week, the question was raised following their 18-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, in which they gave up a record eight homers at Fenway Park.
Does manager Alex Cora see any relation?
“No, I just see the relation that we’re leaving a lot of pitches right down the middle that those guys have taken advantage of,” Cora said after the game.
“I don’t think so. I don’t believe so. I think obviously the talk will be out there, everybody will be looking at the scoreboard and who’s pitching and if you give it up, you know, then you know you were using something in your last start. But before that, a lot of pitchers were giving it up so I know the league is doing a good job with this stuff and they’re gonna come down with a memo, but I don’t think struggling has to do with stuff, you know? Those guys are really good too. And we have made a lot of pitches right down the middle lately and they’ve taken advantage of them.”
The Red Sox haven’t had a strong start since June 4 against the Yankees, when Nathan Eovaldi took the mound against New York. Those issues seemed to reach a climax against the Blue Jays on Sunday, but hints that the starting rotation’s hot start was cooling down were apparent well before the sweep of the Yankees. Boston’s bullpen has been throwing well during this stretch, too.
Starter Martín Pérez, who fell to 4-4 after 1 1/3 innings of work against Toronto, emphatically denied any correlation on behalf of him and the Red Sox starters.
“I’m not a cheater pitcher,” Pérez said on a postgame video conference. “I’ve been around for a long time and I don’t use that kind of stuff, you know? I just go out there and compete with what I got that day. I don’t put anything on my arm, I don’t put anything on my glove. Whoever did that’s their problem.
“We’re not pitching good for the last three or four days is because the sticky things? No. It’s because we’re not locating the pitches where we want it, and if we go back again and throw the pitch where we want we’re gonna be fine. But it’s not because we’ve been using the sticky things. No way.”
We expect to hear more about MLB’s plans to combat the use of foreign substances in the coming days.