Tigers' AJ Hinch says crackdown on sticky stuff not impacting his game-planning or bullpen use
Cleveland — It was steamy and humid Monday night and Tigers reliever Buck Farmer, who threw 31 pitches in 1⅔ innings, was struggling to keep the sweat off his right wrist and hand. Conscious of the scrutiny on pitchers and the use of sticky substances, Farmer wasn’t entirely sure how to use the rosin bag.
“There’s a lot of confusion,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Everyone is tiptoeing around scared to death they will end up with substances of some kind in an area it’s not supposed to be even if it’s absolutely unintentional and very innocent.”
Farmer ended up pounding his right forearm on the rosin bag as it lay on the ground, not wanting to risk touching it with his left hand and then getting the rosin-sweat mix in his glove. Which is what Mariners pitcher Hector Santiago claimed happened to him.
He was suspended for 10 games. The Mariners cannot replace him on the roster.
“I told our guys, it’s terrible for a team if that happens,” Hinch said. “There is a lot of confusion around where rosin can and can’t go, when it creates sticky and when it doesn’t. The player has a right to defend himself and he will.
“But it’s a great reminder to all pitchers that it’s very detrimental to a team. They have to get to the bottom of this.”
Crew chief Laz Diaz took a long time examining Farmer after his outing and he came over and talked to Hinch, as well. The conversation was about where you can legally apply rosin. Hinch said Diaz had also talked to Indians catcher Austin Hedges.
“Laz said Hedges was getting rosin in between at-bats because he was sweating like crazy,” Hinch said. “A major league official called down and said that was not allowed. There a lot of confusion about what we can and can’t dry off.
“We’re going to have to start taking quarterback towels out there.”
In a report by The Athletic Tuesday, since the league sent out the memo warning of the crackdown on sticky substances, 230 pitchers (roughly 60%) had a shown “statistically significant” decrease in spin rates on their pitches.
Sixty-three pitchers (17%) dropped more than two standard deviation points, or roughly 230 rpms. One hundred forty-five (38%) dropped one standard deviation point.
Hinch was asked if that has impacted how he is using his pitchers now versus before the crackdown, or how he game plans.
“Zero,” he said. “I’m still going to use the guys I’ve always used. We’re abiding by the rules and we’re going to go with what our guys are. Everybody is combing over the data and there are a lot of people drawing conclusions. Some have merit and some don’t around the league.
“But it doesn’t change the way I manage or who I believe in or what pitches are going to be effective. It’s just creating a level playing field across the league and also a lot of controversy and a lot of unknowns. But I think it’s doing its part.”
Hinch first addressed this issue in spring training, warning his pitchers this day was coming. He’s addressed it several times since, individually and as a group.
“I don’t feel there is any issue on our team where I need to alter my usage of them or the effectiveness of their pitches,” he said.
After an hour and 37-minute wait, the Tigers-Indians game Tuesday night was postponed because of a steady rain that started at about 7 p.m. and didn't relent.
The teams will play a traditional double-header Wednesday, two seven-inning games beginning at 4:10 p.m.
Around the horn
How stingy have José Cisnero and Gregory Soto been at the back end of the Tigers’ bullpen? Since May 17, Cisnero has posted a 0.49 ERA and Soto is at 0.56 ERA. Combined they’ve allowed two earned runs in 34⅓ innings.
They are the fifth Tigers tandem since at least 1972 to each pitch a minimum of 15 innings over a span of 38 games each with an ERA below 0.70. It most recently happened from June 20-Aug. 3, 2016, with Francisco Rodríguez and Alex Wilson.
… Outfielder Derek Hill (shoulder) was activated off the injured list Tuesday and optioned to Triple-A Toledo.
… Starter Spencer Turnbull (forearm strain) has been playing catch in Lakeland and is expected to throw off a mound for the first time either mid-week or this weekend.
“That’s encouraging,” Hinch said. “He’s had no problems with his ramp-up or throwing program.”
… Reliever Alex Lange (shoulder) has reported to Toledo. He will throw another bullpen and then a live bullpen session before starting his rehab assignment.
Tigers at Indians
► First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Progressive Field, Cleveland
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1
► RHP Wily Peralta (0-1, 5.00), Tigers: By now, he’s stretched out enough to go five innings, up to 100 pitches. But manager AJ Hinch used him effectively as an opener in his last start, and depending on the availability of his bullpen arms, he will likely stay with that plan.
► RHP Cal Quantrill (0-2, 3.64), Indians: This will be the sixth start after spending most of the season in the bullpen and he hasn’t thrown more than 77 pitches in an outing. So, this will be a quasi-bullpen start for the Indians, too. He’s coming off a rough one in Minnesota (six runs in 4⅓ innings).