Yankees’ Clarke Schmidt survives ‘sticky stuff’ scare; Reds’ manager thrown out

Yankees starter Clarke Schmidt had a sticky hand check at Cincinnati on May 19, 2023, before he was allowed to pitch against the Reds.
John Allen
Saturday May 20, 2023

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Clarke Schmidt was subject to inspection on Friday by umpires following the apprehension that he was using a sticky substance. This made him the latest Yankees starting pitcher to undergo this scrutiny. However, he was absolved of any wrongdoing and allowed to keep pitching. This elicited strong disapproval from the Reds led by their manager David Bell. Umpires had to eject Bell following his angry response and arguments.

This incident evoked memories of an earlier occurrence on April 15, when Yankees starter Domingo German was requested to wash his hand during a game against the Twins, Umpire gave marching orders to Twins manager Rocco Baldelli for his reaction to their decision. This time, it was Reds manager David Bell who faced ejection under similar circumstances.

Clarke Schmidt performed well throughout the match despite the game being disrupted by the foreign substance check on him. He made his best start of the season and didn’t allow a run across five innings.

The sticky moment for Clarke Schmidt

Clarke Schmidt did a fantastic job for the first four innings of maintaining the quiet. The umpires decided to examine Schmidt for drugs with the Yankees up 1-0, before entering the fifth inning.

As the umpiring crew conducted their customary spot check on Clarke Schmidt’s pitching hand, which has become routine due to the recent crackdown on the use of “sticky stuff,” an issue seemed to arise. The umpires noticed something worth discussing, prompting all four of them to convene and deliberate. Eventually, they made the decision to permit Clarke Schmidt to wash his hands and continue playing in the game.

Clarke Schmidt mentioned in his post-game comments after the Yankees’ 6-2 victory that when he went out for the fifth inning, the third-base umpire conducted a check on him. The umpire examined his hands and assured him that everything was in order. Additionally, the umpire inspected the area on the back of the Yankees starter’s wrist where the glove slides onto. Clarke Schmidt explained that he uses a black glove, and there is black fur inside it. He noted that due to sweating and the presence of rosin, some residue had accumulated on the back of his wrist where the fur is located throughout the game.

The umpires opted to let Clarke Schmidt finish pitching after he washed off his wrist. Before the Yankees starter returned to the visitor’s locker room to wash his wrist, he had already tossed four perfect innings. The umpires spoke with Reds manager David Bell and Yankees manager Aaron Boone while Schmidt was out of the game.

On Wednesday, Major League Baseball suspended German for a duration of 10 games and imposed a fine on him for violating the league’s rules against using foreign substances on the pitching mound during his start in Toronto on Tuesday.

Clarke Schmidt expressed his understanding of the league’s heightened sensitivity. The Yankees starter acknowledged that the league is currently placing great emphasis on the matter. It is evident across the league that more comprehensive searches are being conducted, and he finds this to be completely acceptable. Clarke Schmidt emphasized that he has no intentions of concealing anything.

Following the game, Yankees manager Aaron Boone addressed a particular issue that caught the attention of the umpires. Boone explained that the color of Schmidt’s black glove appeared to be rubbing off and combining with rosin and sweat on the back of Schmidt’s wrist, which raised concerns among the officials.

According to reports, crew chief Bryan O’Nora supported the statements made by Boone and Clarke Schmidt. O’Nora explained that the substance in question was not shiny or dark like pine tar. Instead, it appeared to be fuzz from the inside part of Clarke Schmidt’s glove. The umpires instructed the Yankees starter to wash it off, and after doing so, nothing was observed on his hand. O’Nora clarified that the substance was not sticky and did not qualify as a foreign substance.

Clarke Schmidt did an excellent job on the mound, winning by a score of 6-2 despite allowing two runs, five hits, and two walks. According to Statcast, the spin rate of all of his pitches was higher than his season average. The only other pitcher in the game whose spin rates increased at the same moment was Albert Abreu, a Yankees reliever.

Clarke Schmidt explained during an interview on the Yankees’ TV network that he used rosin, a legal substance for pitchers. He mentioned that when rubbing the ball up, his hands can darken, and sometimes umpires question why his hand appears darker than usual. Clarke Schmidt pointed out that when continuously rubbing the ball for five innings and sweating, it is natural for the hands to become darker than the normal skin tone.

The Yankees starter acknowledged that umpires may suggest cleaning the hands between innings if they appear darker. In this particular instance, the concern arose because of the fur on the inside of his glove, which made his wrist appear abnormal. Clarke Schmidt understood the umpire’s concerns but clarified that there was no stickiness on his hands or any other issues.

Reds’ manager ejected after Clarke Schmidt inspection

On Friday at Great American Ball Park, the umpires allowed New York Yankees starter Clarke Schmidt an opportunity to continue pitching. Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell did not have as much success. He was ejected from the game.

Bell was not happy with the umpires’ decision to keep Clarke Schmidt in the game after they had only managed to get three hits against him.

When the Yankees starter returned to the field and had a quick examination from umpires before receiving O’Nora’s green signal to resume throwing. Bell approached O’Nora as Clarke Schmidt was warming up to pitch. Bell was ejected from the game after a lengthy discussion.

According to crew chief Brian O’Nora, Bell expressed dissatisfaction with the decision to have Clarke Schmidt clean off the substance on his wrist rather than ejecting him. O’Nora explained the situation to Bell, but he continued to argue. Despite O’Nora’s warnings, Bell persisted, leaving O’Nora with no alternative but to eject him from the game.

David Bell did not comment on getting ejected from the game after it ended. When asked about the ejection, he stated that he believed it was evident what had occurred and he preferred not to elaborate on the matter. The Reds’ manager expressed that discussing it wouldn’t be beneficial for the team, and he chose to refrain from providing further details.

Jonathan India, an infielder with the Reds, reportedly said that Bell was within his rights to argue with the umpires. He mentioned that incidents like this have occurred multiple times with the Yankees this year. He expressed surprise that a player is not ejected if any substance is found on their hand or glove, as he believed that was the standard procedure.

The guidelines outlined in a memo sent to teams in March emphasized that if a player is found to possess or use foreign substances in violation of the rules, they are subject to immediate ejection from the game and automatic suspension. According to O’Nora, the umpire crew has the decision of asking a pitcher to wash their hands without ejecting them from the game.

Clarke Schmidt acknowledged that the league is currently highly sensitive to the issue and mentioned that umpires are conducting more thorough inspections, which he fully supports. He emphasized that he has nothing to hide in relation to foreign substance checks.

This was the second time this season that Bell has been ejected from a game.

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