MLB's crackdown on sticky substances officially begins

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, center, checks the cap and glove of Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Keegan Thompson, left, as manager David Ross watches during the middle of the fifth inning Monday against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field.

    Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, center, checks the cap and glove of Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Keegan Thompson, left, as manager David Ross watches during the middle of the fifth inning Monday against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 6/21/2021 8:59 PM

As each starting pitcher walked off the mound at the end of Monday's first inning, he was greeted by a pair of umpires, who spent roughly 10 seconds protecting the integrity of the game.

This was the day when MLB's crackdown on illegal substances officially went into effect. Any pitcher caught with a banned sticky substance may be subject to a 10-game suspension.

 

In reality, the change began a couple weeks ago when the league warned this day was coming. During the past few weeks, spin rates have measurably dropped and offensive stats are up.

From the Cubs perspective, nothing seems to have changed. Their three best bullpen arms -- Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin -- retired all 12 batters they faced Sunday against Miami.

"I think that's no secret to me," Cubs manager David Ross said. "I know what our guys are doing and they're doing things the right way."

Before the game, Ross said there's always a little trepidation when players are faced with a new rule or procedure.

"We've passed out the memos, we've had the discussions and now it's in the umpire's hands and we'll see how it all goes down," he said. "If something does go awry or something goes down, there's an appeals process, just like any other suspension or ejection. We've got a safety net if there's a misunderstanding or something gets misconstrued.

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"We also have to trust in the umpires. I think for the integrity of the game, they're going to try to uphold that and try to make sure that they're going to err on the side of what's best for baseball and try to nip the cheating in the bud."

Ross said he has no problem pointing something out to the umpire if he suspects an opposing player is cheating.

"I was in Boston when we were playing the Yankees and (Michael) Pineda had the pine tar on his neck," Ross said. "I think something that's obvious, you see obvious cheating, you have to say something. That's now how I watch the baseball game, who's cheating and who's not. Sure, if something comes to my attention or I see something, I'm not afraid to call something out."

Ross also said he doesn't buy the argument grip enhancements are needed for batter safety, enabling the pitcher to have good command of where the ball is going.

"The information so far in the last 10 days, batting average has gone up, on-base has gone up, slug has gone up, spin rates are down on fastballs, breaking balls and hit by pitches are exactly the same," Ross said. "So draw your own conclusions."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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