LOS ANGELES — For more than a minute on Wednesday afternoon, Max Scherzer argued with home-plate umpire Dan Bellino and crew chief Phil Cuzzi, his right hand outstretched during most of the exchange. As Mets manager Buck Showalter stood next to him, Scherzer pleaded his case, telling the umpires repeatedly that he was using nothing more than rosin to grip the baseball.
Then Cuzzi ejected Scherzer, leaving the Mets in a pitching bind that could last well beyond their 5-3 win over the Dodgers.
When asked after the game what Cuzzi said to him, Scherzer told reporters, “he said my hand’s too sticky.”
Scherzer adamantly maintained that he was not using anything besides rosin.
“I said, ‘I swear on my kids’ life, I’m not using anything else,'” he said. “‘This is sweat and rosin. Sweat and rosin.’ I keep saying it over and over, and they touch my hand and say it’s sticky. Yes it is, because it’s sweat and rosin.”
“I said this to Buck and to Max, it really didn’t matter to us what it is,” Cuzzi told a pool reporter. “All we know that it was far stickier than anything that we felt, certainly today and anything this year.”
Scherzer initially met with Bellino in the middle of the second inning for a routine sticky substances check, which has been part of MLB protocol since 2021. When Scherzer returned for the third, the umpiring crew asked him to exchange his glove for a new one, which Scherzer did before retiring the side in order.
As Scherzer returned for the bottom of the fourth, umpires again stopped him, and he began animatedly arguing his case. Eventually, Cuzzi, the first-base umpire, ejected him, eliciting additional appeals from Scherzer before Showalter guided him away from the fracas.
“As far as stickiness, level of stickiness, this was the stickiest that it has been since I’ve been inspecting hands, which now goes back three seasons,” Bellino told a pool reporter.
Jimmy Yacabonis entered in relief of Scherzer and was given unlimited time to warm up due to the abrupt departure of Scherzer, who allowed no runs over three innings in his first start since dealing with a minor bout of back soreness. When Brandon Nimmo hit a go-ahead two-run homer off former teammate Noah Syndergaard in the fifth, the Mets roared their approval from the visitors’ dugout.
This was not Scherzer’s first disagreement with umpires over a sticky substance check. In 2021 with the Nationals, Scherzer threw his cap to the ground, uncinched his belt and began to remove his pants in exasperation after Phillies manager Joe Girardi called for multiple substance checks from the dugout. Following that game, Scherzer discussed at length his legal process of using sweat and rosin to grip baseballs on the mound.
Wednesday marked the fourth ejection of Scherzer’s career, but it was the first time he had been tossed while actively participating in a game. It tightened the pitching crunch for the Mets, who had already been managing injuries to rotation members Justin Verlander, José Quintana and Carlos Carrasco. That has forced New York to rely more heavily than usual on its middle relievers while making nearly daily roster moves to keep its bullpen fresh.
The problem could worsen if MLB determines Scherzer was indeed using sticky substances in an illegal manner. He faces a potential 10-game suspension if the league rules against him, but he could appeal. Per league guidelines, rosin is legal for pitchers to use on their wrist and forearm “to assist in managing sweat,” but they are prohibited from applying it to their gloves and uniforms. Combining rosin with any other foreign substance, such as sunscreen, is also illegal.
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