Sticky situation: Yankees to lose Domingo German for 10 Games following ejection

Domingo German of the New York Yankees was ejected at Rogers Center on May 16, 2023, for allegedly using a sticky substance.

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The Yankees beat the Blue Jays on Tuesday to lead the series in Toronto. However, the Yankees’ righty starter Domingo German was ejected after being accused of using a sticky substance. The ongoing rivalry between the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees has intensified in recent seasons, and the first two games of their early-season series have further escalated tensions.

Domingo German’s ejection only fueled the already heated feud at Rogers Centre that witnessed a highly charged game amidst a tense atmosphere. The Blue Jays dugout engaged in a verbal exchange with Yankees third base coach Luis Rojas over his positioning in the coach’s box. Toronto expressed discontent with the placement of Yankees coaches during Monday night’s series opener. However, the visitors prevailed and the Yankees took the game 6-3.

In the April 15 game between the Twins and Yankees, the umpiring crew instructed Domingo German to wash his hands twice after checking him for banned sticky substances, but they allowed him to continue pitching. However, in his start against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night, Domingo German was not as fortunate and faced consequences for the same issue.

Domingo German’s unfortunate ejection

After pitching three scoreless innings and striking out two batters, Domingo German was inspected by umpires prior to the fourth inning. It was discovered that he had some sticky substance on his hands and he was subsequently ejected from the game.

However, Domingo German refuted any violation of MLB’s rules regarding sticky substances. He successfully retired the initial nine batters he faced but was halted when he took the mound to begin the fourth inning. The inspection involved all four umpires.

Crew chief James Hoye stated that Domingo German’s hand was noticeably shiny and sticky on the palm and fingertips. Hoye described it as the stickiest hand he had ever felt, adding that it was extremely shiny and sticky upon his initial observation.

Crew chief James Hoye told: “His hand was clearly shiny on the palm and his fingertips. It was extremely sticky. The instant I looked at his hand, it was extremely shiny and extremely sticky. It’s the stickiest hand I’ve ever felt.”

Hoye clarified that the substance on Domingo German’s hand was not rosin, as he could recognize the difference. He described the substance as extremely sticky, emphasizing that it was not just tacky like rosin. According to Hoye, his fingers had difficulty separating from Germán’s palm due to the stickiness of the substance.

During a game against the Minnesota Twins on April 15, Domingo German had the opportunity to wash his hands and continue playing, as three out of the four umpires Hoye, John Libka, and D.J. Reyburn from Tuesday’s game were also part of that crew. In the aftermath of the Twins game, Hoye, who served as the crew chief, clarified that Domingo German was permitted to remain in the game because the stickiness on his hand did not exceed a certain level.

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Hoye then stated in an interview with NJ.com after the game that Domingo German’s actions did not warrant an ejection as they did not meet the criteria of a foreign substance that would impact his pitching.

Ejections for the use of foreign substances carry a mandatory 10-game suspension, but Domingo German will have the opportunity to appeal the decision. Another pitcher, Max Scherzer of the New York Mets, was ejected and received a 10-game suspension for a foreign substance violation last month. He chose not to appeal and served the entire duration of the suspension. It is evident that MLB has intensified its enforcement of foreign substance rules this season.

Domingo German claims innocence

Domingo German maintained that he had only utilized rosin, a legal substance and not an illicit one. Also, his spin rates on Tuesday night aligned with his season averages. It is important to note that this does not negate the possibility of him using foreign substances. The consistent spin rates simply indicate that Domingo German’s usage of such substances, if any, remained consistent throughout the season. Major League Baseball actively monitors pitch spin rate variations as part of its efforts to identify and penalize potential users of illegal substances.

“It was not rosin. It was definitely not rosin. I’ve felt hands with rosin and it definitely was not rosin. It was extremely sticky. Rosin is usually a little tacky. This was sticky. My fingers had a hard time coming off his palm.”

Domingo German explained through a translator that it was the first base umpire, Reyburn, who applied pressure to his hand and deemed it excessive. Reyburn then called over the other umpires to confirm the situation. The Yankees starter mentioned that the brown substance observed on his pants was actually due to chewing tobacco. He claimed to have not received a clear explanation at the time, and as a result, he was ejected from the game.

According to YES Network, Domingo German stated after the game that it was simply a rosin bag. He mentioned that he didn’t require any additional assistance to grip the baseball and that in his previous start, the umpires had pointed out that he wasn’t using it enough on the mound. Therefore, in this game, he made sure to utilize it on the mound.

Sweat, rosin bag, I don’t need any extra help to grab a baseball. From the last start a couple of games ago, they (the umpires) mentioned that I wasn’t using it enough on the mound. So, tonight I was using it on the mound. And that’s it.”

He mentioned that there are two types of rosin bags, a rock one and a sand one, and he uses the sand one. Domingo German stated that in his previous game, the umpires had mentioned that he wasn’t using it enough on the mound. As a result, in this game, he made sure to use it on the mound.

What this means for the Yankees

According to the Yankees, the substance Domingo German had on his hand was rosin, which is considered legal as long as it is not used excessively or incorrectly. The team will be without the starter for 10 games.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone commented after the game that the umpires deemed the substance on Domingo German’s hand to be excessively sticky, resulting in his ejection. Boone acknowledged that such behavior is not acceptable, but also acknowledged the challenge of defining the exact line between what is permissible and what is not. He mentioned that Domingo German had faced increased scrutiny recently but acknowledged that it was the starter’s responsibility to handle the situation better.

The Yankees are not permitted to make a roster replacement for Domingo German, although they have the option to call a starter after sending off Ryan Weber to Triple-A. As the team has a scheduled off day on Monday, they can simply skip Domingo German’s turn in the rotation for the upcoming game.

Luis Severino, who pitched 55 pitches during his rehab assignment on Tuesday night, could potentially make his first appearance of the season on Sunday.

Boone emphasized that it is Domingo German’s responsibility to ensure that the team is in a better position. He concluded by saying that everyone should have a clear understanding of the boundaries.

When questioned about whether the substance found on Domingo German’s hand was rosin, as the Yankees had stated in his previous start against Minnesota, Boone replied, “I believe it was the same.” He mentioned that the umpires often compare hands and noted that there would not be anything on the starter’s other hand, indicating that it was not tacky. Boone expressed uncertainty about where the line is drawn in such situations and shared that the umpires’ explanation was that the substance was deemed too sticky.

Domingo German apologized to his teammates and the team, acknowledging that he was placing them in a difficult position due to the bullpen’s extensive usage. He recognized that it was a challenging situation for them.

What can Domingo German’s spin rates tell us?

Domingo German’s spin rates did not show a significant increase. They remained well within the normal range of variation observed from game to game. In fact, they only rose by approximately 50-60 RPM compared to his seasonal average. A standard deviation is typically around 150 RPM. This highlights the limitations of relying solely on spin rates as a reliable means of enforcing the ban on sticky substances.

While it is known that Domingo German had previously been instructed to wash his hands, the specific details of what substances he was using and when are not clear. As a result, establishing a definitive baseline for pitchers becomes challenging. If one were to solely analyze the spin rates from Domingo German’s recent start, it would not have raised any immediate concerns or triggered further scrutiny. This highlights the difficulty of solely relying on spin rates as a reliable indicator for inspection.

More reason to be concerned?

Domingo German has played for the New York Yankees for all six of his MLB seasons, during which he has amassed a career ERA of 4.34 and a record of 28-24.

In such a situation, the Yankees would be required to compete with a full 25-man roster. It is not permissible to fill the vacant roster spot of a player suspended due to an on-field rules violation. As a potential solution, the Yankees could opt to summon a starting pitcher from the minor leagues or reinstate Luis Severino from the injured list to assume the role in the rotation. However, implementing this approach would necessitate playing with one fewer player in another position.

The Yankees’ bullpen has suffered significant setbacks due to injuries to Jonathan Loaisiga, Tommy Kahnle, and Lou Trivino. The starting rotation has also faced considerable challenges. It is crucial for the Yankees to receive positive updates regarding Hamilton’s condition; otherwise, general manager Brian Cashman will be compelled to explore options within the Triple-A roster to find a suitable replacement.

Manager Aaron Boone informed reporters after the game that he believed Hamilton would be sidelined for a certain period of time after he exited Tuesday’s game with an injury.

The MLB RULES

Although pitchers are allowed to use rosin, MLB says that excessive or improper application of rosin, such as on gloves or other parts of the uniform, may be deemed a prohibited foreign substance by umpires. This could lead to ejection and disciplinary action for the player.

“When used excessively or otherwise misapplied (i.e., to gloves or other parts of the uniform), rosin may be determined by the umpires to be a prohibited foreign substance, the use of which may subject a player to ejection and discipline.”

It remains unclear whether the umpiring crew’s reasoning for Domingo German ejection was based on this justification or if they concluded he was using a banned substance altogether.

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