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Jun. 16—With MLB cracking down on the use of illegal substances on baseballs, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tyler Anderson said Tuesday night that repeated changes to the balls might have caused some pitchers to cross "the line" to counteract "balls that fly."
"When your pitches aren't doing something the same, I think guys probably out of desperation look for other ways to try and get their pitches to go back to what they were," Anderson said after shouldering the defeat in the Pirates' 8-1 loss to the Washington Nationals.
"At some point, some guys probably crossed the line because they found out pitches got a little nastier than maybe they were before whenever they found some other substances."
MLB announced Tuesday pitchers will be ejected and suspended for 10 games for using illegal foreign substances. Commissioner Rob Manfred's office said major league and minor league umpires will begin regular checks of all pitchers, even if the opposing manager doesn't request it.
Catchers will be subject to inspections and position players could also be searched. Position players only will be ejected for possessing a foreign substance if the umpire determines the player was applying it for his pitcher's benefit.
"I'm sure some guys will have bigger problems than other guys," said Anderson, a veteran of six seasons for three National League teams. "I feel like this was just a problem created by Manfred by changing the ball every year."
Anderson said pitchers are forced to change strategy when the ball changes.
"Pitching has been missing barrels for a long time," he said, "but when they start putting in balls that fly and guys have to figure out how to miss barrels, I think, that all of sudden, instead of missing barrels, they have to try to miss bats, just to even try to fight."
Pirates manager Derek Shelton said he plans to speak to his pitchers about the penalties. The crackdown begins Monday.
But Shelton said his discussions will not be triggered by concern for his players applying illegal foreign substances to baseballs, only to emphasize that MLB means business.
"I will address it with them," Shelton said, "just so they are aware of what the actual guidelines say. I don't want anybody to be in an ambiguous situation where they are unaware of what the enforcement could be.
"That's the biggest thing. If someone were to be put into a position where they were suspended, they need to realize how it affects themselves, how it affects their teammates."
Anderson said he is hoping for a level playing field throughout baseball.
"I'd like to see them maybe consistently have the balls the same because sometimes you go places and balls are really, really slick, and sometimes you go places and they're OK," he said.
"Sometimes, it's humid and the ball's are all right and sometimes you get a ball that's really chalky and you have to lick your fingers over and over and over to get any kind of tack on the ball."
Pitchers still can use rosin bags, but rosin can't be combined with sunscreen or other substances, according to the guidelines. Pitchers will be told not to use sunscreen after sunset outdoors and not at all in indoor ballparks.
The guidelines are in response to complaints from executives, coaches, umpires and players.
"Based on the information collected over the first two months of the season, there is a prevalence of foreign substance use by pitchers in Major League Baseball and throughout the minor leagues," MLB said in a statement.
"Many baseballs collected have had dark, amber-colored markings that are sticky to the touch. MLB recently completed extensive testing, including testing by third-party researchers, to determine whether the use of foreign substances has a material impact on performance.
"That research concluded that foreign substances significantly increase the spin rate and movement of the baseball, providing pitchers who use these substances with an unfair competitive advantage over hitters and pitchers who do not use foreign substances, and results in less action on the field."
The MLB batting average was at .236 at the end of May, down from .252 in 2019 and lowest since 1968, ESPN reported. After owners began talking about a crackdown June 3, average fastball spin rates fell from 2,329 revolutions per minute each week through June 5 to 2,226 on Sunday, according to MLB Statcast data.
Shelton said he will wait until more data is collected before making a personal determination.
"I wish I knew (if the crackdown will have immediate results on batting averages)," Shelton said. "If I had that kind of foresight, that would be really good. I don't know how it's going to affect it. I think it's going to be interesting to watch over the next few weeks, months."
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .