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If you’re in the baseball business, it was impossible to ignore Friday’s Sports Illustrated cover story with the headline: “This Should Be the Biggest Scandal in Sports.”
The subhead reads: “The inside story of how rampant pitch-doctoring in MLB is pumping pitchers up and deflating offenses.”
Rockies manager Bud Black is aware of the controversy swirling around “sticky baseballs,” but he’s not sure how prevalent the use of foreign substances is in the majors. But according to SI, one recently retired pitcher estimates “80 to 90%” of pitchers are using it in some capacity.
“I know there is an issue, but to what degree I’m not sure yet,” Black said before the Rockies hosted Oakland at Coors Field. “I know that article painted a picture where basically everybody is doing it. I don’t see it that way, but I do see that we need to get a handle on this.”
According to multiple reports, Major League Baseball, after failing to dissuade pitchers from using sticky, illegal substances, is going to give umpires more power to enforce the rules. If caught, pitchers could be subject to a 10-game suspension. According to USA Today, tougher enforcement is expected to begin before the July 13 All-Star Game in Denver.
According to SI, use of the “sticky stuff” started in earnest three years ago when pitchers began mixing sunscreen and rosin, but now some pitchers are using forms of glue. Pitchers use substances to impart more spin on the ball, making it more difficult to hit. As strikeouts continue to rise, batting averages continue plummeting, with the major-league average down to .236.
One game-used baseball found its way into a National League dugout last week and players were able to pick up the sticky ball simply by pressing their palms to the ball, according to SI.
Rockies infielder Joshua Fuentes said, “there’s something going on.”
Asked if he’s picked up a baseball and felt a sticky substance, he said, “Yeah, 100%. … It’s pretty obvious, you just have to look around.”
Rockies starters have been very good this year, particularly at hitter-friendly Coors Field where they have posted a 3.13 ERA. Black, however, said he doesn’t know if there is widespread use of banned substances on baseballs by his pitchers.
“I’m not aware of what’s going on with all of our pitchers in regard to what form of tackiness they are using,” he said. “I know that in the history of the game that there has been the use of the rosin bag and what we would refer to as ‘OK substances’ to create a level of safety for the hitters.
“And we all know that that’s fine, because we are talking about pitchers losing their grip on pitches.”
Injury updates. Shortstop Trevor Story (right elbow inflammation) remains on track to return to the lineup Tuesday when the Rockies open a road trip at Miami. … Infielder Ryan McMahon (slight groin pull) is getting better but the Rockies decided to hold him out of the starting lineup for the second game in a row. … Utility player Chris Owings, out since April with a strained thumb, has begun playing catch, fielding grounders and hitting the cage. Black said that Owings will likely begin a minor league rehab assignment in a week to 10 days.
Athletics LHP Cole Irvin (3-7, 4.12 ERA) at Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (0-0, 4.50)
7:10 p.m. Saturday, Coors Field
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: KOA 850 AM/94.1 FM
Freeland needs to cut down on walks. He’s issued at least three in each of his two starts since coming off the injured list. In his last start at Pittsburgh, he gave up three runs on five hits with four walks. Freeland has faced the Rangers twice in his career, going 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA. Irving’s control has been excellent. He’s walked two batters or fewer in each of his 11 starts and has issued just 11 walks in 63 1/3 innings and his average of 1.56 walks per nine innings is third lowest in the American League. However, he’s 0-4 with a 5.40 ERA and .284 opponents batting average over his last five starts. He took the loss in his last outing — a 4-2 win by the Angels — in which he pitched six innings, giving up four runs on six hits. He’s faced the Rockies just once, pitching the Phillies to a 5-4 win at Philadelphia on May 17, 2019. He surrendered three earned runs on five hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
Trending: Entering Friday night’s game, the Rockies are 14-2 when getting at least 10 hits and have outscored opponents 133-76. Thirteen of those games have come at Coors Field.
At issue: Struggling right-handed reliever Yency Almonte (14.09 ERA) is getting lit up by left-handed batters, who are hitting .400 (14-for-35) against him. He’s been scored on in four of his last six appearances.
Sunday: Athletics RHP James Kaprielian (2-0, 2.95) at Rockies RHP German Marquez (3-5, 4.13), 1:10 p.m., ATTRM
Tuesday: Rockies RHP Antonio Senzatela (2-5, 4.47) at Marlins RHP Elieser Hernandez (6-12, 4.47), 5:10 p.m., ATTRM