In an attempt to crack down on the use of foreign substances on baseballs for the upcoming season, Major League Baseball will inspect balls taken out of play, analyze spin rate data and increase monitoring of dugouts and clubhouses.
The new policies, outlined in a memo obtained by ESPN on Wednesday and sent to all 30 teams, are ultimately meant to help level the playing field for hitters, which should increase balls in play, a source told ESPN.
Mike Hill, newly hired as executive vice president of baseball operations and disciplinarian, wrote in the memo that “players are subject to discipline … regardless of whether evidence of the violation has been discovered during or following a game.”
Hill also said team leaders may be held responsible by staff.
Substances on baseballs, like pine tar, can increase spin rate, which leads to more strikeouts and less action on the field.
If a pitcher’s “normal” spin rate, measured in revolutions per minute, increases significantly, the league may investigate whether the player is doctoring balls. Baseballs taken out of play — both randomly and prioritized, if they exhibit signs of foreign substances — will be inspected by a third-party lab, according to the memo. Balls will be tracked back to whomever was pitching when they were taken out of play.
Finally, game-day compliance officers will monitor dugouts, batting cages and bullpens for violations of the foreign substance rules while filing daily reports of their observations with the league office.
While there has long been a rule against using foreign substances on baseballs, enforcement has been sporadic. The memo states that on-field, in-game monitoring by umpires will not change, but postgame analysis could lead to punishment. The new enhanced monitoring measures will provide a “separate evidentiary basis to support a finding that a player has violated the foreign substance rules,” according to the memo.
Club personnel are also being reminded they are prohibited from assisting players in the doctoring of baseballs and are subject to punishment as well.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.