Yankees are extra vigilant after being on a sticky mound

Matt Blake, the Yankees' pitching coach, with his players.

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On Friday, the Yankees came close to experiencing a situation where one of their starting pitchers could have been ejected, pending the umpire’s discretion. This occurrence would have marked the second time in a span of four days.

Against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, Clarke Schmidt almost avoided the same fate as Domingo German. The Yankees’ starter German was ejected during the game and later received a 10-game suspension for failing a foreign substance check.

Schmidt, the other Yankees starter, was allowed to wash his left wrist during Friday’s game by the umpires at Great American Ballpark. He said the black mark on his wrist was really a combination of perspiration, rosin, and fur from the inside of his glove, all of which are technically acceptable under specific parameters.

Yankees starter Clarke Schmidt undergoes a sticky hand inspection at Cincinnati on May 19, 2023.

The Yankees remain concerned

The issue at hand is part of a broader concern: the inspections are subjective as there are over 60 umpires who assess the stickiness of pitchers’ hands across the league. However, the Yankees are aware of the importance of holding themselves accountable within their own dugout before it even reaches the point of involving an umpire.

Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake expressed the importance of the team staying vigilant and maintaining a strict approach toward the issue. He emphasized the need for zero margins of error and advised the players to exceed the perceived boundaries by a significant distance.

Manager Aaron Boone said that the Yankees have been strongly addressing the issue with their pitchers after Schmidt’s lucky escape from an ejection and subsequent suspension on Friday, which could have seriously impacted the team’s roster.

However, Boone emphasized the importance of self-policing within the team, calling attention to the fact that pitchers and coaches should do their own inspections in the dugout before sending a pitcher to the mound. He mentioned that it is crucial for pitchers to hold each other accountable and for the coaching staff to be actively involved in that process.

During an interview, Blake said that he often did checks on the pitchers’ hands in the dugout between innings.

Blake explained that he maintains close observation, particularly in cases involving German, advising him to make adjustments when necessary, such as reducing the amount of rosin used. He emphasized the importance of being mindful that rosin accumulated throughout the game, prompting the need to make necessary modifications.

But the risk of subjectivity persists

Nevertheless, there exists a certain level of frustration due to the uncertainty surrounding the precise boundary between acceptably adhesive and excessively sticky substances. According to a memo issued by MLB on March 16, it was stated that rosin could be classified as a “prohibited foreign substance” if it is used excessively or inappropriately applied, such as on gloves or other parts of the uniform.

Regarding German’s situation last Tuesday, crew chief James Hoye emphasized that it was the “most adhesive hand I’ve ever encountered.”

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

On the other hand, Brian O’Nora, the crew chief for Schmidt’s incident on Friday, mentioned that the Yankees starter’s hand didn’t have a sticky feel to it. However, they flagged the back of his wrist for being slightly tacky.

The Yankees’ pitching coach expressed the difficulty in defining a definitive boundary, emphasizing the subjective nature of the issue. He noted that determining stickiness is based on personal judgment, saying, “I think this is tacky.” Reflecting on German’s ejection, Blake understood the umpires’ perspective, who described his hand as the stickiest they’ve ever felt. However, he questioned where the line was drawn for hands that are less sticky, raising the need for a clearer criterion.

Blake highlighted the potential danger when Schmidt took the mound with a slightly tacky glove hand, expressing uncertainty about the extent of stickiness. The Yankees’ pitching head questioned how they should determine when it turned to be problematic, emphasizing the need for clarity on defining the acceptable limit.

Additionally, Hoye remarked that the substance on German’s hand was clearly not rosin, a claim that German refuted.

Blake on German’s sticky hand

Shortly after German’s ejection, Blake was among the Yankees staff members who approached him to physically examine his hand.

Blake acknowledged that when he personally inspected German’s hand, he could feel the stickiness. He admitted that the umpires were correct in their assessment, as the level of stickiness surpassed the acceptable limit. The Yankees pitching coach refrained from disputing the decision, acknowledging that German had likely crossed the line with his application of the substance.

When questioned about the possibility of the crew chief, Hoye, being mistaken and the substance being solely rosin, the Yankees pitching coach expressed uncertainty. He stated that it was difficult to definitively determine the nature of the substance.

Blake emphasized that he avoids engaging in speculation regarding the origin or composition of the substance. He maintained that the umpires’ assessment of it being excessively sticky was what mattered.

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