Red Sox

J.D. Martinez theorized MLB’s new pitcher substance rules would ‘benefit’ the Red Sox. Garrett Richards disagreed.

"I can’t remember a game where I’ve gripped a baseball that hard."

MLB pitcher substance rules
Red Sox starter Garrett Richards pitching without sunscreen during his June 16 start against Atlanta. AP Photo/John Bazemore

With the turmoil created by Major League Baseball’s midseason decision to curtail pitchers’ usage of illegal foreign substances, the Red Sox are representative of the differing reactions among players.

On one side, designated hitter J.D. Martinez thinks Boston will sail through relatively unscathed.

“I don’t think it really affects us,” Martinez said before the game on Wednesday. “I don’t think it affects our pitchers, honestly. Talking with our pitchers, nobody really uses that kind of stuff. Nobody uses those kind of substances. So I think it’s going to benefit us.”

Apparently, Martinez didn’t check with the Red Sox starter that day, Garrett Richards.

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Facing Atlanta only a few hours after Martinez’s assertion that the new league standards would “benefit” the Red Sox, Richards surrendered four runs and seven hits over four innings.

As WEEI’s Rob Bradford noted, Richards’s curveball — a pitch he has previously used 15 percent of the time in 2021 — wasn’t used once. The 33-year-old veteran acknowledged that he didn’t have “conviction” in it, and (contrary to Martinez’s claim that “nobody” on Boston’s staff uses foreign substances) admitted he’s used sunscreen to help improve his grip.

“I think tonight spoke for itself,” Richards told reporters. “I’m not going to get caught up in [the new rules]. But I’ll definitely say it’s starting to affect people, people in their careers. So, we’re going to follow the rules, but this is the game you’re going to get.”

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For Richards, as other pitchers like Rays’ starter Tyler Glasnow have also noted, part of the problem is the league’s decision to make the shift in policy at midseason.

In reality, it changes many pitchers’ daily routines. Now, they must alter their approaches on the fly.

“As soon as I get to the field every day, I put sunscreen on,” Richards said. “Now I can’t do that. And on top of that, the only thing that’s provided is the rosin bag on the back of the mound, which to be honest with you, is completely useless. It does nothing. It literally, it barely even dries up sweat. It might as well not even be there. I can’t even think how many times over the entire course of my career that I’ve gone to the back of the rosin bag. Sometimes I’ve been on mounds that didn’t even have rosin bags on the back of the mound.”

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“I don’t know anybody that just uses rosin,” Richards added. “If we can somehow get a rosin bag that actually worked, I think that’s something that should definitely be looked into.”

Another point that Richards made similar to Glasnow was the possibility of unintended consequences because of the change. Specifically, Richards cited the threat of injuries to pitchers and batters.

“I can’t remember a game where I’ve gripped a baseball that hard,” Richards said of his Wednesday start. “I definitely use a loose grip. I even hit two guys and I don’t hit people. I don’t hit people. With two strikes, too. Trying to go fastballs in and just missing up and in, but not really knowing why.”

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