MLB is cracking down on use of foreign substances in 2020, reportedly moving forward with stricter enforcement on a rule that has long been understood among players as a gentlemen's agreement.
Senior vice president Chris Young has spent spring training at league-wide camps in Arizona and Florida to tell teams that the league will enforce the rule for the upcoming season, The Post's Joel Sherman reported Wednesday.
In simple terms, among other aspects, Rule 8.02 prohibits pitchers from doctoring the baseball with anything outside of the legal rosin bag. Article B notes that the offender shall be immediately ejected from the game and automatically suspended for 10 games.
"As in past years, MLB is conducting our normal spring training meetings to review rules, replay, umpiring and other topics related to on-field play. We want to ensure that all Clubs understand the rules and regulations and adhere to them," Young told Sherman.
Pine tar has been among the most popular substances used by pitchers over the years, becoming increasingly targeted as a tool for organizations' analytics departments to increase spin rate between velocity and movement.
Second-year Twins RHP Michael Pineda, who was a part of the Yankees' starting rotation from 2014-17, infamously got caught with pine tar on his neck during an April 23, 2014, game against the Red Sox. MLB promptly suspended Pineda for 10 games.
While with the Astros from 2018-19, new Yankees ace RHP Gerrit Cole appeared to be indirectly accused by Reds RHP Trevor Bauer as a user of foreign substances. Bauer, who in a Players' Tribune article Feb. 12 opened up on his belief that the Astros were using foreign substances to increase spin rate, seemingly referenced Cole's Jan. 13, 2018, trade from the Pirates.
"I mean, when I see a guy go from being a good pitcher for one team and spinning the ball at 2,200 rpm, to spinning the ball at 2,600 or 2,700 in Houston, I know exactly what happened," Bauer said.
Cole was a first-time All-Star selection with the Pirates in 2015, going 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA and a then-career-high 202 strikeouts to 44 walks over 32 starts and 208.0 innings pitched.
After two years of regression, he bounced back in a major way with the Astros, ascending to arguably MLB's best pitcher after going 35-10 with a 2.68 ERA and 602 strikeouts to 112 walks in 65 starts over 412.2 innings pitched.
Cole credited his overall physical health and the Astros' analytics department and pitching coach Brent Strom for the ultimate rise on the mound, highlighted by the uptick in spin rate.
"(Spin) is a skill that Brent and those guys over there have great tips on what maximizes spin. Period. They just do," Cole told Sherman. "Brent was forward-thinking in the sense the Cardinals (where Strom came from previously) wanted to go east and west (inside/outside) and he wanted to go north and south (up/down). … So finally he gets over to a new team in Houston, he gets control of the reins and people are going north and south and they think it is a new invention. It is not a new invention."