Kansas City, Mo. — In the heat of the moment Tuesday night, when umpire John Tumpane made Casey Mize change gloves after the first inning, Tigers manager AJ Hinch didn’t immediately think about how that move might be perceived on social media and across the league.
But he certainly did after he heard Mize’s angry postgame reaction.
“I didn’t think of the ramifications on the Twitter-verse where they’re going to accuse before they really know anything,” Hinch said Wednesday morning. “It’s unfortunate and I thought Casey had every right to defend himself and be proactive on that.”
Mize did exactly that. Tumpane thought Mize’s sun-faded, charcoal gray-colored glove didn’t fit Major League Baseball requirements so Mize borrowed Kyle Funkhouser’s lighter-colored Rawlings glove. But on the same day the league sent a memo to all 30 teams warning them of the crackdown on and consequences for being caught using sticky substances, Mize knew exactly how that was going to be perceived.
“I think I’m in a situation now where I assume everyone thinks I was using sticky, which in reality is not the situation at all,” Mize said. “Starting Monday they’re going to check, so it wouldn’t look too suspicious then. But obviously today it looks very suspicious with the memo coming out and I come out in the second inning with a completely different colored glove.”
Hinch had Mize’s back.
“It’s a show of the times where perception means a lot,” he said. “On a day that the foreign substance conversation was at its highest, we have a glove coming out of the game. That was completely unfair to Casey. There was no reason for it.”
That’s the other part of this. Mize and Hinch were both perplexed by the seemingly randomness of Tumpane’s decision.
“The glove color stuff has been going on all year, that didn’t surprise me,” Hinch said. “It surprised me that Casey had 12 starts with a dark-colored glove and had no problem with any other umpire.
“John is really fair and good about things, so I’m not sure what triggered that.”
Hinch said the Tigers have asked Major League Baseball for an explanation and clarification of the rule governing the color of pitcher’s gloves.
“For whatever reason, John decided that color was against the protocol,” Hinch said. “I thought it was an overreaction on a dark-gray glove. To be honest, if I was seeing the situation — and I don’t want to get Funk in trouble — but his light-colored glove is more distracting than the dark gray one.
“I’m just proud of Casey for going to get a different glove and continuing to pitch well.”
Understand, though, Hinch is fully on board with the league’s attempts to curb pitchers’ rampant use of foreign substances on the baseball. It’s gone way beyond just helping them safely grip the ball on cold or excessively hot days.
It’s improved spin rates to the point where it’s created an unfair and unnatural advantage.
“The league was very direct, it is zero tolerance,” Hinch said. “The league has been straightforward with managers, and we have been straightforward with players. We’re going to get an even playing field and we’re going to get the sticky stuff away from the game and out of the competition.”
Hinch had three separate meetings on Monday about it — with his coaching staff, with the players and with the trainers and support staff.
“We all saw this coming,” he said.
The league’s memo was met with wide-ranging criticism from players, past and present, concerned about an array of unintended consequences from banning all substances except rosin — much of it related to health and safety.
“We have to understand, we’re trying to get a level playing field,” Hinch said. “We are trying to take the egregiousness out of the conversation when it comes to the sticky stuff. I hope everyone can stay healthy and adjust.
“Others may feel differently, but the game will survive and be better for it. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a little uncomfortableness to get there.”
Wishing Ramos well
For a couple days in April, catcher Wilson Ramos was leading the big leagues in home runs. On Tuesday, he was designated for assignment.
“We were comfortable with our two catchers,” Hinch said of Jake Rogers and Eric Haase. “Dustin Garneau and Grayson Greiner are getting back healthy, too, so our catching depth we felt pretty good about.
“It always feels bad to lose a veteran player like Wilson. But we were pretty desperate for pitching and we needed roster spots to accommodate that. The business of baseball sucks. Sometimes you have to lose good people.”
Ramos, who was signed to a one-year, $2 million contract this winter, had his season derailed by a back injury (lumbar strain). He was serving his second stint on the injured list and had just started a rehab assignment when he was DFA’d.
Ramos will have a chance to hook on with another team if he clears waivers.
“Wilson has a lot to offer in a lot of different ways.” Hinch said. “He’s a good teammate. He can hit and he’s getting back healthy. I would vouch for him as a teammate and someone who can bring offense to a club if given the opportunity.
“The game has not passed him by and he’s not aging past the point of being available and ready. I’m rooting for that.”
Around the horn
The Tigers went into play Wednesday with 25 home runs in June, the most in the major leagues.
“It’s not coincidence,” Hinch said. “When you’ve got Eric Haase, Jonathan Schoop and Robbie Grossman getting hot, we can hit homers in bunches.”
… Speaking of hot Junes, Miguel Cabrera is hitting .306 this month. With his double Tuesday, he went over 5,000 career total bases.
“His swing has cleaned up to where it’s a little more efficient,” Hinch said. “He’s hitting the ball on a line more than he’s hitting with loft.”
…One more about hot streaks: Schoop hit his 11th home run Tuesday night — his eighth in his last 17 games. He’s hit safely in 18 of his last 22 games, slashing .360/.423/.709 in that stretch.
On deck: Angels
► Series: Four games at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Anaheim, Calif.
► First pitch: 9:38 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 10:07 p.m. Saturday; 4:07 p.m. Sunday
► TV/radio: Thursday — YouTube/97.1; Friday — BSD/97.1; Saturday — FS1/97.1; Sunday — BSDet/97.1
► Probables: Thursday — RHP Matt Manning (MLB debut) vs. RHP Shohei Ohtani (2-1, 2.85); Friday — RHP Jose Urena (2-6, 5.16) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (4-2, 4.98); Saturday — RHP Wily Peralta (0-0, 0.00) vs. LHP Patrick Sandoval (1-2, 3.51); Sunday — RHP Casey Mize (4-4, 3.49) vs. RHP Dylan Bundy (1-7, 6.98)
► Manning, Tigers: The California kid (albeit northern California) gets to make his big-league debut in his home state, not too shabby. He’s had a rocky seven-start stretch in Triple-A, but his power fastball and slider-curve package is big-league worthy.
► Ohtani, Angels: The Tigers are about to face one of the nastiest pitches in baseball — Ohtani’s splitter. Tunneled off a 95-mph four-seam, the splitter has generated a 60% whiff rate this season. Hitters are 4-for-64 against it with 45 strikeouts.