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MLB memo lays out how league will monitor use of foreign substances by pitchers

Major League Baseball has sent out a memo to teams that explains how pitchers will be monitored this season for use of foreign substances on baseballs in the upcoming 2021 season.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post was among the first reporters to break the news of the memo on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday, Jeff Passan of ESPN did a deep dive on the memo via Twitter, going into even greater detail concerning its contents.

In essence, the memo lays out how Statcast will be used to track pitchers’ spin rates during games and compare them to their historical career rates. Further, compliance officers will monitor “dugouts, clubhouses, tunnels, batting cages and bullpens.” Balls will be randomly sampled, and lab work will be employed that “search not just for the substances themselves but the type being utilized.”

The policies presently being clarified by MLB as it pertains to curtailing the use of foreign substances by pitchers did not come out of nowhere. In February, Chris Young, the new MLB senior VP to oversee on-field operations and umpire development, informed teams during tours of spring training sites that Rule 6.02, the regulation in question, would be enforced more aggressively in 2021.

Pitchers are technically banned from applying any foreign substance — including pine tar, among other materials — to a baseball. However, those rules are rarely enforced unless the opposing team registers a complaint.

That was the case during the 2019 season when New York Mets ace Noah Syndergaard was suspected of using a foreign substance to doctor-up a baseball during an April game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Since the Phillies did not lodge a formal complaint, MLB did not conduct an investigation or take any action.

According to the league’s memo, however, the option to decline taking action may no longer be at the discretion of individual teams, regardless of the nature of the alleged act by pitchers who attempt to utilize a foreign substance of any kind.