LOS ANGELES — Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he believes right-hander Trevor Bauer is being “singled out” by Major League Baseball after umpires in Oakland collected several baseballs he threw in his last start, apparently to examine for foreign substances.
Roberts also acknowledged Friday that he has noticed umpires collecting sample balls from every pitcher as part of the sport's crackdown this season on pitchers tampering with balls.
But the World Series-winning manager openly wondered why only Bauer's name appeared as an apparent target of MLB's investigation in a report by The Athletic on Thursday.
“I just hope that our player is not singled out,” Roberts said. “That’s the one thing I want to guard against.”
When asked directly if he felt Bauer is being singled out, Roberts replied: “At this point, yeah. ... I don’t know (why). That’s the only name I’ve heard floated around.”
In his pregame news conference before the Dodgers received their World Series rings in their home opener at Dodger Stadium, Roberts wondered why Bauer was specifically mentioned in The Athletic's report, which was based on unnamed sources.
“I’ve noticed every game so far, they’ve taken balls out of play” from every pitcher, Roberts said.
Bauer reacted to the report on Twitter on Thursday, writing: “wonder where the articles about balls from every other pitcher being taken out of play in literally every other game this season are? Also lol to (at)MLB who already has 'sources' talking to gossip bloggers about a supposedly confidential process a week into the season.”
Baseballs loaded with foreign substances such as pine tar typically have higher spin rates when thrown properly, improving the movement of both fastballs and breaking pitches.
MLB disciplinarian Mike Hill sent a memorandum to all 30 teams in late March announcing an increase in the monitoring of baseballs. Statcast data is also being reviewed by the commissioner’s office to analyze spin rate changes among pitchers and comparing game data with career norms.
Bauer's spin rates have gone up and down during his career, and he has spoken openly about the efficacy of using foreign substances to improve pitches, saying in 2018 that the competitive advantage created is significant, and that cheating is likely impossible to police.
Bauer's spin rates rose significantly last season when he won the NL Cy Young award with Cincinnati, but he is far from the only pitcher with improvement in that area.
Bauer pitched 6 2/3 innings of three-hit ball against the Athletics on Wednesday in his second straight strong start for his new team.
After posting an NL-leading 1.73 ERA and 100 strikeouts to win his first Cy Young award with the Reds last season, Bauer returned to his native Southern California with a three-year, $102 million contract with the defending champion Dodgers in February.
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