Mets manager Luis Rojas more concerned about pitchers’ command after MLB substance crackdown

Luis Rojas Mets
Mets manager Luis Rojas
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

New York Mets manager Luis Rojas admitted that Major League Baseball’s sudden crackdown on the use of foreign substances doesn’t necessarily move the needle in his clubhouse.

“Talking around a couple batters, they don’t care,” Rojas said. “Guys have been very quiet about it. They’re not as animated talking against pitchers… We haven’t been distracted by this. No one’s talked about it as much. They mention it vaguely.”

The league released a memo on Tuesday threatening pitchers and players alike with a 10-game suspension if they are found with foreign substances on them — most notably Spider Tack and a sunscreen-and-rosin combination that gives hurlers an unfair advantage by putting more spin on the ball.

Rojas disclosed that the league spoke with each of its 30 managers before the memo went public, claiming that “they’re going to be more outgoing,” about keeping an eye on it.

Cracking down on such substances is to ensure more of a level playing field as pitchers’ spin rates have skyrocketed over the years — allowing them to put more movement on the ball.

Rojas, however, isn’t concerned about how the ball is moving, but rather where it’s headed.

“I’m aware of guys getting a grip just to get command,” Rojas said. “I don’t want to see a guy like [Kevin] Pillar get hit or a guy like [Pete] Alonso get hit.”

The Mets have certainly been the victim of pitchers who struggled with control issues this season. Pillar was hit in the face by a 94-mph fastball from Atlanta Braves pitcher Jacob Webb on May 18, causing multiple nasal fractures roughly two weeks after Alonso was hit in the hand in St. Louis against the Cardinals that forced him on the injured list.

J.D. Davis’ first injured-list stint also derived from being hit in the hand during the first games of the season against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

“Something that could help the guys grip better that’s not giving them a competitive advantage, that’s a safety purpose,” Rojas said. “The memo is reinforcing the rule. The rule is there not to give anyone an advantage from a competitive standpoint… From a command standpoint, I hope they can develop something that can help pitchers grip the ball better so there are less batters being hit.”