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Sports >  Seattle Mariners

Mariners’ Héctor Santiago 10-game suspension upheld for foreign substance

July 15, 2021 Updated Thu., July 15, 2021 at 1:43 p.m.

Home Plate umpire Phil Cuzzi, right, talks with Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Hector Santiago during the fifth inning in the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago, Sunday, June 27, 2021. Santiago was ejected by Cuzzi.  (Associated Press)
Home Plate umpire Phil Cuzzi, right, talks with Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Hector Santiago during the fifth inning in the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago, Sunday, June 27, 2021. Santiago was ejected by Cuzzi. (Associated Press)
Associated Press

When the Mariners return to the field on Friday, following the All-Star break, they will be without one of their most versatile relievers and won’t have the ability to replace him on the roster.

According to a report from ESPN, Hector Santiago’s 10-game suspension for an undisclosed foreign substance on his glove has been upheld by an arbiter, who is employed by Major League Baseball, after a lengthy appeal hearing July 9 at T-Mobile Park.

Per the new guidelines and harsher penalties issued by Commissioner Rob Manfred on June 15, not only will Santiago be suspended for 10 days but the Mariners will lose his roster spot, meaning they will only have 25 players on their active roster for the first 10 games after the All-Star break instead of 26.

Santiago is the first player to be suspended in MLB’s attempt to remove the use of sticky substances on the baseball by pitchers.

It’s a hurtful blow to the Mariners for multiple reasons.

The veteran left-hander has been a useful pitcher for Seattle, posting a 1-1 record and a 3.33 ERA in 12 appearances, including one start. Santiago’s ability to pitch multiple innings and resiliency to bounce back after outings to be available make him a versatile swing reliever.

And with Justus Sheffield recently placed on the 10-day injured list with strains to his left forearm and oblique, the Mariners don’t have a fifth starter coming out of the All-Star break. Santiago started in Sheffield’s place on Sunday before the break and was an option to use again until the Mariners found a more permanent solution. But now they won’t have Santiago or his roster spot available.

Seattle was carrying 14 pitchers on its 26-man roster going into the All-Star break. One of those pitchers was likely going to be optioned back to Tacoma to make room for outfielder Jarred Kelenic, who is being recalled to take over as the everyday center fielder. The Mariners will either have to go with a 12-man pitching staff or replace a position player with a reliever instead.

The suspension stems from July 27 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. After being removed from the fifth inning of a resumed game vs. the White Sox, Santiago’s hat, belt and glove were inspected by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi, who took particularly interest on the inside palm of the glove.

After a discussion with his umpiring crew, Cuzzi ejected Santiago for what the crew felt was a circular spot of a sticky substance.

Santiago’s glove was confiscated by the umpires after he was ejected. It was placed in a plastic bag and taken from the field by MLB personnel. It was supposedly delivered to MLB for inspection.

Following the game, Santiago said that he had not used any substance other than rosin from the bag behind the mound. With temps in the 90s that Sunday and high humidity, he used the rosin on his left hand and both of his forearms to stop sweat from dripping down them.

“I wasn’t using anything besides rosin,” Santiago said after that game. “That’s what’s given to us, because going into this one, once it came up, I was just like, ‘I’m going to use rosin. That’s what we got. I don’t want this to be a big thing. I don’t want this to happen to me.’ And (Cuzzi) said he just felt some stuff sticky on the inside of the glove. So all I used was rosin.”

Since Santiago used only rosin, which is legal, the Mariners have always maintained that Santiago could not have violated Manfred’s new foreign substance policy, which has become his latest personal crusade to fix baseball and his solution to bringing more offense back into the game.

MLB announced a 10-game suspension two days later, despite not actually inspecting Santiago’s glove for a foreign substance.

During the appeal hearing, Santiago’s glove was used as evidence. Per sources, when he asked all parties involved to find the sticky substance inside the glove or show them the circular spot that Cuzzi claimed, there was none.

There is a feeling within the Mariners that MLB is trying to make an example of Santiago for the new enforcement policy, and that since he isn’t a star player it’s convenient for him to be used as a scapegoat. The word “clown show” was used by one player.

“Just to be clear there was no foreign substance on his glove; it was rosin and rosin is behind the pitcher’s mound, so it’s not a foreign substance,” manager Scott Servais said the day the suspension was announced. “And because it was rosin, I am surprised, to some degree, but I understand what Major League Baseball is trying to do. They’re trying to create a level playing field and understand why they decided to do this in the middle of the season.”

Multiple players have mentioned the discrepancies in how certain pitchers are inspected by umpires. Santiago received multiple videos showing less than cursory examinations of other pitcher, while he was inspected twice in his first appearance after the ejection and then told that his black glove wasn’t black enough and not allowed to be used in games. He also raised the ire of umpires by removing the rosin bag from the mound before his first appearance after the ejection, wanting to take away any chance of accusations. Sources said the umpires felt he was showing them up and made it known to Mariners coaches and players.

“What’s the best way for me to answer this?” Servais said following the most recent glove controversy. “Life’s not fair. It’s just the world we live in right now with everything — the heightened awareness and players getting checked. We feel that we have been wronged by what has happened with Hector. I think Hector is dealing with it very appropriately. I did not have an issue last night with him escorting the rosin bag off of the mound, so there was not going to be any questions there. I thought he was very professional.”

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