Rays' Hill says union 'dropped the ball' on grip enhancers

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Tampa Bay Rays' Rich Hill goes into his windup against the Baltimore Orioles during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 12, 2021, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

CHICAGO – Veteran Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Rich Hill says the players' union “dropped the ball” when it came to this week’s announcement from Major League Baseball about grip-enhancing substances.

MLB said pitchers will be ejected and suspended for 10 games starting Monday for using illegal foreign substances to doctor baseballs.

“I think this falls on the PA, the players' association," the 41-year old Hill said before Wednesday’s game at the Chicago White Sox. “I think that this is where something should have been done. The players' association had the opportunity to work with MLB, and MLB used their strong hand to put it on the players, and that's unfortunate that this is what happened.’’

Hill said it’s a little disheartening that the action was taken without the OK of the players or the union.

"I feel like they should have come together and settled this, and handled it like professionals,” Hill added. “I feel like a rule change in the middle of the season is very difficult for everybody across the league.”

MLB told teams on March 23 it would increase monitoring and initiated steps that included collecting balls taken out of play from every team and analyzing Statcast spin-rate data.

The midseason changes come during the final season of the current collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players, which Hill didn't rule out as a factor.

"We all know that’s coming, and part of this wants me to think that it’s a distraction to put hitters and pitchers against each other, which again isn’t going to do anything to help grow the game," Hill said. “We all want what’s best for the game. We want to grow the game.”

The commissioner’s office, responding to record strikeouts and a league batting average at a more than half-century low, said Tuesday that major and minor league umpires will start regular checks of all pitchers, even if opposing managers don’t request inspections.

While suspensions would be with pay, repeat offenders would receive progressive discipline, and teams and club employees would be subject to discipline for failure to comply.

“My argument is that, when it’s a hundred degrees out and humid, we get a rosin bag. When it’s 30 degrees out and freezing cold we get a rosin bag,” Hill said. "I think it’s also been pretty widely said throughout baseball, hitters and pitchers alike, combined, a feel that the rosin bag is not enough.”

Tampa Bay pitcher Tyler Glasnow, diagnosed Tuesday with a partially torn elbow ligament, attributed his injury to adapting ahead of stepped-up enforcement.


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