Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said Monday afternoon that he was interested in seeing how MLB’s planned enforcement on the long-standing rule to ban applying any foreign substances to the baseball — in this case any kind of sticky stuff to help pitchers spin and control the ball — would impact the game.
He didn’t have to wait long.
Starting pitchers Keegan Akin of the Orioles and Jake Odorizzi of the Houston Astros were checked by umpires Angel Hernández and Ted Barrett on their forearms, hats, belt buckles, and gloves for sticky substances after the first inning. Each was cleared to continue.
Hyde said the preparations for Monday’s enforcement beginning from MLB was direct, meaning pitchers knew what to expect.
“They have been very, very clear and thorough,” Hyde said. “I’m looking forward to a level playing field. We got another memo last night with a little more clarity on some things. I’m going to talk to the pitchers here after batting practice and it’s pretty clear now on what they expect.”
Enforcement will be incumbent on umpires, who will check the starting pitcher multiple times per game and every relief pitcher as he comes in from the bullpen for any evidence of foreign substances that might be applied to the baseball.
Managers can also ask for checks on players outside of that, and while Hyde said he’s never done so before, the changing landscape of this enforcement could impact that.
“I think if I saw something that was pretty blatant or pretty obvious, I probably would say something,” he said.
Since MLB began to leak its threats to enforce this rule, which has largely been ignored for generations, there has been a league-wide drop in spin rate on four-seam fastballs. A handful of Orioles pitchers have seen their spin rates drop sharply since that date as well.
Hyde said before Monday’s game that he expected an adjustment period to continue on that front.
“I have no idea,” he said. “I think a lot of guys are going to have to adjust, and they’re going to continue to adjust in what they’re using to get a grip on the ball to command it, and how guys react to that, I have no idea.”
MLB had been collecting data via its Statcast platform and examining baseballs all season to prepare for its enforcement, and potentially identify which pitchers to pay extra attention to.
The visiting Astros were at the heart of MLB’s last major on-field scandal, with the organization severely punished for a video sign-stealing program on their way to winning the 2017 World Series.
The first pitcher checked in any game Monday was also the league’s best, with New York Mets star Jacob deGrom passing a brief first-inning inspection in New York.
Baltimore Sun reporter Nathan Ruiz contributed to this story.