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Rays ace says MLB's sticky situation contributed to injury

Rawlings Baseball
Posted at 3:30 PM, Jun 16, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rays right-handed starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow didn’t hesitate to blame Major League Baseball’s effort to cut down on pitchers adding substances to gain a competitive advantage for his recent arm injury.

Reports emerged Tuesday that Glasnow suffered a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Typically, the treatment for UCL injuries is what’s known as Tommy John surgery that keeps a pitcher out for around 18 months. The Rays and Glasnow said they will initially try to treat the injury and hope it heals instead of the surgery route. But Glasnow has no doubt about what helped cause his injury.

RELATED: Rays ace Tyler Glasnow has partially torn UCL, MRI shows

"I switched my fastball grip and my curveball grip," an animated Glasnow said on a videoconference with reporters Tuesday. "I had to put my fastball deeper into my hand and grip it way harder. Instead of holding my curveball at the tip of my fingers, I had to dig it deeper into my hand.”

Glasnow changed his grip after MLB’s decision to ban the use of any foreign substances on balls by pitchers. For casual fans, it may seem like a no-brainer that all foreign substances on balls would be banned, recent baseball history has shown teams getting more creative with how they approach the rules.

Major League Baseball has been under fire in recent weeks as more and more examples of teams adding substances to balls have come out. While pitchers, including Glasnow, have said it’s to help with the grip, reports from SI.com and others have shown baseballs in recent seasons have been showing unnatural changes in RPMs and break. Any change in spin or break will make it increasingly hard for batters to hit the ball.

Any baseball used in a game has a special mud from the Delaware River to help increase the grip on baseballs. It’s the only substance allowed on baseballs and is applied by umpire attendants. But in recent years, teams have started using other combinations of substances on balls to increase the pitcher’s stats and crush opposing offenses. Pitchers also have a rosin bag on the mound to provide a little help with grip.

However, reports have emerged of pitchers mixing sunscreen and rosin, or even glue, to “help” them while on the mound. As the use of substances increased, offensive production has taken a huge dip in the major leagues.

According to Baseball Reference, the league-wide batting average this season is .238 and has dropped 17 points since 2017 when it stood at .255. At the same time, teams are recording nearly nine strikeouts per game, the highest rate in MLB history.

There have been six no-hitters which if the league records three more would break a record set in 1884. Hits, in general, are down at a historic pace in the big leagues with teams averaging the fewest hits per game since 1909, the so-called Dead Ball Era of MLB history.

Major League Baseball said starting Monday pitchers will be “subject to random checks and could face ejections, fines, and suspensions if found with any foreign substances on them or in their glove,” according to ESPN.com.

“It has become clear that the use of foreign substance has generally morphed from trying to get a better grip on the ball into something else — an unfair competitive advantage that is creating a lack of action and an uneven playing field,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “This is not about any individual player or club, or placing blame, it is about a collective shift that has changed the game and needs to be addressed. We have a responsibility to our fans and the generational talent competing on the field to eliminate these substances and improve the game.”

It won’t just be pitchers, umpires will also be able to examine catchers and positional players if they suspect the use of a foreign substance. If players refuse, that player will be ejected from games and suspended. Club personnel may also be disciplined if they’re caught encouraging or helping players use sticky substances.

Pitchers have said while the idea of eliminating the foreign substances is good, doing it midseason without any chance to work on how the changes will impact their deliveries and let them work it out in the offseason. Glasnow summed up his frustration saying the changes have ruined his season.

“I want to go out and win a Cy Young,” Glasnow said of the yearly award given to the best pitcher in each of MLB’s leagues. “I want to be an All-Star and now it’s s*** on…I’m clearly frustrated.”