MLB’s planned crackdown on pitchers’ use of foreign substances taking shape

One major-league manager, fearing the impact on pace of play from Major League Baseball’s coming crackdown on pitchers using illegal substances, suggested TSA-style checks of pitchers before they enter games.

The checks would be conducted out of public view by security agents the league currently employs to monitor video replay rooms and other areas of ballparks.

The problem with such an idea is that nothing would stop pitchers, once they were in the dugout or on the field, from obtaining the substances from a teammate or a staffer. And Major League Baseball, in addressing this issue, wants to avoid any potential loopholes.

The league’s new methods of enforcement, as the league’s senior umpire, Joe West, told The Athletic last week, will be conducted solely by the umpires, just as Rule 6.02(c)(7) instructs. The plan, which is not yet final and is subject to change, will be designed to ensure that every pitcher and team is treated the same way and create minimal disruption to the pace of play.

Here are some of the details regarding the crackdown, a number of which first were reported by ESPN.com:

• Umpires will check starting pitchers at least twice a game and relief pitchers at least once.

• Checks will be done as pitchers come off the mound after an inning has ended or a pitching change has been made — in other words, during commercial breaks.

• If an umpire believes a pitcher is using a substance, he will be encouraged to check the pitcher during the inning. Umpires can check fingers, skin, hats, gloves, belts and any other part of the uniform.

• If substances are found, the pitcher will be ejected and his equipment and/or uniform will be confiscated and given to the on-site major-league authenticator.

• Umpires will be instructed to check a position player’s glove only if they believe he is doctoring balls for the pitcher.

Additional calls between umpires and league officials regarding the crackdown are expected this week, as is communication with clubs, sources said. The league has yet to determine an exact timetable for beginning the increased enforcement. But the intent is to give players enough notice so that, ideally, embarrassing situations are avoided and no violations occur.