Report: MLB to Allow Use of Anti-Sign-Stealing Devices During Regular Season

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 5, 2022

MESA, AZ - APRIL 2: Dom Nunez (3) of the Colorado Rockies makes a catch behind the plate during a Spring Training Baseball game between the Colorado Rockies and Oakland Athletics on April 2, 2022, at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, AZ. (Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MLB is reportedly set to green-light the use of PitchCom, an electronic device worn by catchers aimed at reducing the ability for opponents to steal signs, for the 2022 season.

ESPN's Buster Olney reported Tuesday the catcher will be able to alert his pitcher and up to three teammates of the pitch selection, including the pitch type and location, by using a pad on his wrist that's transmitted to listening devices.

MLB hopes the technology can move baseball "beyond the risk of the sign-stealing scandals that have plagued the sport in the last decade," per Olney.

PitchCom was tested in Low-A beginning last August after some initial feedback from bullpen sessions during last year's spring training.

In July, the company behind the device told ESPN's Alden Gonzalez it's "virtually impossible" to hack the signals and co-owners Craig Filicetti and John Hankins felt it could have wide-ranging benefits.

"We are excited to see our PitchCom technology tested under game conditions," they said. "As avid baseball fans, we saw a clear opportunity to use technology to help solve pace-of-play and sign-stealing challenges and improve the game that we love."

Olney noted the reviews from players throughout this year's spring schedule have been "glowing."

"I think it was great," New York Yankees starter Luis Severino said. "I was a little doubtful at the beginning, but when we started using it, it was really good—with a man on second, too. I would definitely like to use it in my first start [of the regular season]."

The new system won't be required, with pitchers and catchers maintaining the option to use old-school finger signals, but Olney expects "broad use" as players become more comfortable with the technology as teams look to limit sign-stealing opportunities.

In January 2020, MLB announced the Houston Astros forfeited their first-round draft picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts along with a maximum fine of $5 million following an investigation into allegations of sign-stealing from the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch were both suspended by MLB for the 2020 season and were fired by the Astros. Hinch returned to baseball in 2021 as manager of the Detroit Tigers.

The Boston Red Sox lost a 2020 second-round draft pick after a probe into alleged sign-stealing in 2018, and the New York Yankees are fighting in court to prevent a letter detailing their alleged effort to steal signs from being released to the public.

Meanwhile, the 2022 season gets underway Thursday with a full 162-game season planned despite a 99-day lockout during the offseason.