Mets' Max Scherzer ejected after checks for sticky substance

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Thursday, April 20, 2023

New York Mets right-hander Max Scherzer was ejected in the fourth inning of Wednesday's 5-3 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers after umpires repeatedly checked the ace pitcher's hand and glove for a sticky substance.

Mets manager Buck Showalter said after the game that Scherzer was ejected for having rosin on his glove. If deemed to have violated the rule on sticky substances, Scherzer faces an automatic 10-game suspension, which can be appealed.

Scherzer, 38, said after the second inning that his hand was"clumpy" from the rosin and sweat and that he was told by umpire Phil Cuzzi to wash it off, which Scherzer said he did with alcohol in front of an MLB official.

Scherzer was checked again before the start of the bottom of the third inning. According to Cuzzi, Scherzer's hand appeared clean but the pocket of his glove was sticky, and he told Scherzer to use a new glove. Scherzer complied and continued to pitch.

Cuzzi and plate umpire Dan Bellino, the crew chief, checked Scherzer again as he came out for the fourth inning, and they were joined by Showalter. After a heated discussion, an animated Scherzer was tossed from the game.

Scherzer yelled "It's rosin!" at the umpires before his ejection. He reluctantly went to the dugout.

Scherzer told reporters after the game that he had washed his hands and changed gloves, knowing he would be checked again by umpires before pitching the fourth inning. He also said that he had rosin in his glove, but he insisted that there was no intent to cheat.

"I'd have to be an absolute idiot to try to do anything when I'm coming back out for the fourth [inning]," Scherzer told reporters after the game. "... He said my hand is too sticky, and I said, 'I swear on my kids' life that I'm not using anything else. This is sweat and rosin, sweat and rosin.'

"... I don't get how I get ejected when I'm in front of MLB officials doing exactly -- exactly -- what you want. And being deemed my hands too sticky when I'm using legal substances, I do not understand that."

In a pool report after Wednesday's game, Bellino said that the stickiness on Scherzer's hand during the fourth-inning inspection was "much worse than it was even in the initial inspection."

"As far as stickiness, this was the stickiest it had been since I've been inspecting hands, which goes back three seasons," Bellino said. "Compared to the first inning, it was so sticky that when we touched his hand, our fingers were sticking to his hand. Whatever was on there remained on our fingers afterwards for a couple innings. It was far more than we've ever seen before on a pitcher during live action."

Cuzzi and Bellino both said afterward that they didn't know specifically what substance was on Scherzer's hand.

"I said this to Buck and to Max, it really didn't matter to us what it is," Cuzzi said. "All we know is that it was far stickier than anything that we've felt certainly today and anything this year, and so in that case, we felt as though he had two chances to clean it up, and he didn't."

According to Bellino, the umpires will send a report to the commissioner's office, which then will determine whether Scherzer will be disciplined.

The rule on sticky substances states that "player use of rosin always must be consistent with the requirements and expectations of the Official Baseball Rules. When used excessively or otherwise misapplied (i.e., to gloves or other parts of the uniform), rosin may be determined bythe umpires to be a prohibited foreign substance, the use of which may subject a player to ejection and discipline. ... Moreover, players may not intentionally combine rosin with other substances (e.g., sunscreen) to create additional tackiness."

Scherzer had allowed just one hit and had three strikeouts at the time of the ejection. It was Scherzer's shortest start since June 11, 2021, when he threw 12 pitches for Washington before leaving because of a groin injury.

It was the fourth career ejection for Scherzer, but the first in a game in which he was pitching. The previous three had come with him on the bench.

"We understand the repercussions of removing a pitcher from the game," Bellino said. "We take that very seriously, and with the training that we've been given by Major League Baseball to make sure it's not a legal substance, this was clearly something that went too far, went over the line."

It's the second incident in MLB this season regarding sticky substances. After a first warning, New York Yankees pitcher Domingo German was again told to wash the rosin from his hands one inning later during a game Saturday, which led Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli to be ejected for arguing that German should've been tossed for not complying.

Before Scherzer, just two MLB pitchers had been ejected for violating the updated foreign substance policy, both in 2021 -- Seattle's Hector Santiago (also by Cuzzi) and Arizona's Caleb Smith. Both pitchers received 10-game suspensions.

Sources told ESPN in March that Major League Baseball had informed all teams and players that enhanced efforts would be taken this season to crack down on pitchers' use of illegal substances.

Those enhanced efforts, detailed in a memo and approved by the league's on-field committee, included "randomized checks of fingers (including removal of rings worn on either hand of pitchers), hands, hats, gloves, belts/waistlines, and pants," the memo stated. "Pitchers may be subject to checks before or after innings in which they pitch, and managers may make inspection requests of a pitcher or position player either before or after an at-bat."

According to the memo, umpires can focus on "suspicious behavior by players that suggests the potential use of foreign substances."

ESPN's Buster Olney and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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