Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Friday umpires have been collecting baseballs from all pitchers early in the 2021 season, so he's curious why Dodgers starter Trevor Bauer is the only one who's been mentioned publicly.
"I hope that our player has not been singled out," Roberts told reporters. "... That's the only name I've heard floated."
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Thursday multiple baseballs from Bauer's most recent start, a 4-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, were collected and MLB sources said they had "visible markings and were sticky." They were sent to the league office for further inspection.
Roberts said he didn't expect Bauer to face any discipline stemming from the situation, and an MLB general manager told Rosenthal it would be difficult to punish a player without direct evidence.
"I don't believe unless you can catch somebody in the act, doing it in the moment, and you get something on their hand or on their person, that you can truly prove 100 percent that they are doing it," the GM said. "We all know. But to suspend somebody for 10 games, you've got to have real evidence."
Bauer responded to Thursday's report on Twitter:
Trevor Bauer @BauerOutage
balls from every other pitcher being taken out of play in literally every other game this season are? Also lol to @MLB who already has “sources” talking to gossip bloggers about a supposedly confidential process a week into the season 😂😂😂 thumbs up y’all keep killin it! 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻
In March, ESPN's Jesse Rogers reported MLB sent a memo to all 30 clubs saying it was going to crack down on the use of foreign substances on the baseball through a review of balls taken out of play, an analysis of spin-rate data and increase clubhouse surveillance.
Mike Hill, the league's executive vice president of baseball operations, wrote players would be “subject to discipline ... regardless of whether evidence of the violation has been discovered during or following a game.''
One MLB team executive told Rosenthal he wants the league to send a strong message to discourage the use of substances on the ball.
"Count it as a PED, ban someone 20 games for it, we'll see how often people want to take chances then," the executive said. "It's outrageous—there is a 20 to 30 percent improvement on breaking balls with it. Just can't be allowed."
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reported the Players Association would “challenge any discipline” not covered by MLB rules.
In February 2020, Bauer estimated in a piece for The Players' Tribune around 70 percent of MLB pitchers use some type of "technically illegal substance on the ball," which he later described on HBO's Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel as a "bigger advantage than steroids ever were," per Jordan Heck of Sporting News.
Analysis by Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer found Bauer's spin rate increased dramatically late in the 2019 season
Bauer proceeded to post a career-low 1.73 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 73 innings in 11 starts for the Cincinnati Reds during the 2020 season to win the NL Cy Young Award. He signed a three-year, $102 million contract with the Dodgers during the offseason.
His next start is scheduled for Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies.