Rob Manfred: Pitcher inspections ‘moving game in right direction’

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred believes checking pitchers for foreign substances has gone well despite controversy early into implementation of the new rule.

“The inspections have gone forward, the games haven’t gotten longer, we’ve had no (player) ejections,” Manfred told the New York Times on Wednesday. “And the data seems to suggest that we’re moving the game in the right direction — that we found a problem that needed to be addressed and it’s being addressed.”

Manfred’s comments come two days after umpires began mandatory between-inning checks of pitchers for foreign substances. Things came to a head already Tuesday, when Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi was ejected after a fifth-inning spat with Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

Girardi asked the umpires to check Scherzer for a foreign substance and, after nothing was found, Girardi was ejected.

“I’ll take off all my clothes if you want to see me. I’ve got nothing on me,” a defiant Scherzer told reporters postgame.

Manfred acknowledged the controversy in a separate interview with The Athletic.

“I understand the incident in Philadelphia was less than ideal, but that was one incident,” Manfred said. “And we expect that we will continue, as the vast majority of cases so far, without that kind of incident.”

Since Tuesday, pitchers around the league have spoken in support of Scherzer. Some have called on Manfred to be more accountable for the uncertainty the rule change has caused.

“I’d love to hear Manfred answer questions and not just players,” New York Yankees reliever Zack Britton said Wednesday. “If you’re the head of a sport, I think part of the job description is to answer the questions and speak to the media occasionally. You see it throughout the other sports. It’s frustrating for the players that we haven’t heard from him yet.”

In speaking with The Athletic, Manfred defended the league’s communication.

“We were really transparent from the beginning of the year that this was an issue of concern to us and that things needed to change,” Manfred said. “That’s why we were collecting information. We were clear in the March memo we sent out if things didn’t change, there was going to be discipline. … Around the owners meetings, there was a ton of publicity around the fact that things had not changed. In fact, they had gotten worse.

“I just don’t see any secret about where this was headed, and I know for a fact there was plenty of opportunity for input in the process.”