Scherzer receives 10-game suspension, won't appeal

April 21st, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- ’s sticky substance saga reached its conclusion on Thursday, when Major League Baseball suspended Scherzer 10 games and fined him an undisclosed amount “for violating the prohibitions on foreign substances” in such a manner that led to his ejection Wednesday in Los Angeles

Citing the club’s ongoing rotation issues, Scherzer said he elected not to appeal because “the best thing for the Mets … is to accept the suspension.” Scherzer is eligible to return to the mound on May 1. In the interim, he can remain with the team but cannot be in the dugout during games. 

According to a league release, MLB “reviewed relevant video and first-person reports, including a report from the umpiring crew” at Dodger Stadium before handing down its suspension. Specifically, the league is punishing Scherzer for the amount of sticky substance on his hand prior to the fourth inning, when umpires Dan Bellino and Phil Cuzzi checked him for the third time in the game. 

“Based on the umpires’ training to detect rosin on a pitcher’s hands, they concluded that the level of stickiness during the fourth inning check was so extreme that it was inconsistent with the use of rosin and/or sweat alone,” the report read, echoing Bellino’s assertions to a pool reporter after Wednesday’s game.

Scherzer has maintained that he used nothing more than “sweat and rosin” -- both legal substances, provided they are applied in accordance with MLB rules. Specifically, in a memo distributed to teams last month, the league wrote that rosin “used excessively or otherwise misapplied (i.e., to gloves or other parts of the uniform) … may be determined by the umpires to be a prohibited foreign substance, the use of which may subject a player to ejection and discipline.”

Bellino and Cuzzi contended that the level of stickiness on Scherzer’s hand was above and beyond anything they had seen this season. Although Scherzer did not deny that assertion on Thursday, he expressed frustration at the subjective nature of sticky substance checks.

“There’s no uniform stickiness,” Scherzer said. “There’s no objective, quantifiable measurement of stickiness, of tackiness. And so what can be deemed legal one inning can be deemed illegal the in the next inning just by applying sweat. That’s my problem with this. That’s what happened.”

Scherzer added that in the future, he would like to see the league use technology to track spin rate spikes for pitchers suspected of applying illegal substances (or legal substances in excess).

“When you apply the rosin, there’s not a test where you can say, ‘Oh, I’m at seven units,’ or ‘Oh, I’m at 10 units,’” Scherzer said. “You don’t know exactly how sticky it’s going to get once I hit the sweat. It’s an inexact science. Obviously, Phil deemed I was using too much, but how am I supposed to know? Where is that line?”

Despite Scherzer’s protestations, he accepted the suspension without appeal because his hearing would have been in front of an MLB panel, not an independent arbitrator. (Scherzer indicated that he did negotiate a reduced fine.)

The 10-game suspension weakens a Mets rotation that was already missing injured starters (right teres major strain), (bone spur in right elbow) and (recovery from rib surgery). Verlander is likely to return in early May. Carrasco could do the same if he responds well to treatment, but he also stands a chance of missing significant time. Quintana won’t debut until July at the earliest.

Without those pitchers, the Mets are relying heavily on and , who entered Spring Training as the team’s sixth and seventh starters. Complicating matters is the fact that the Mets cannot replace Scherzer on the active roster while he is suspended; instead, they must play shorthanded. The team intends to call up left-hander on Friday to make his first MLB outing since 2021, and it will need to find another pitcher to take Scherzer’s spot on Tuesday. (José Butto, who started last Sunday in Oakland, is not an option unless the Mets place someone on the injured list.)

Kodai Senga, who pitched Thursday’s series opener in San Francisco, is the only member of the club’s original rotation still standing.

“Nobody’s going to stop the season and let you catch up and wait till everybody’s healthy,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It is what it is, and we’ll deal with it. The front office has always been ahead of it. We won the game [Wednesday] because of the foresight our organization had about having the people there to pitch that game. And we’ll continue to do that.”