MLB memo warns teams about crackdown on use of foreign substances on baseballs

In an attempt to crack down on the use of foreign substances on baseballs for the upcoming season, Major League Baseball will inspect balls taken out of play, analyze spin rate data and increase monitoring of dugouts and clubhouses.

The new policies, outlined in a memo obtained by ESPN on Wednesday and sent to all 30 teams, are ultimately meant to help level the playing field for hitters, which should increase balls in play, a source told ESPN.

Mike Hill, newly hired as executive vice president of baseball operations and disciplinarian, wrote in the memo that "players are subject to discipline ... regardless of whether evidence of the violation has been discovered during or following a game.''

Hill said club personnel are also being reminded they are prohibited from assisting players in the doctoring of baseballs and are subject to punishment as well.

Substances on baseballs, like pine tar, can increase spin rate, which leads to more strikeouts and less action on the field.

If a pitcher's "normal" spin rate, measured in revolutions per minute, increases significantly, the league may investigate whether the player is doctoring balls. Baseballs taken out of play -- both randomly and prioritized, if they exhibit signs of foreign substances -- will be inspected by a third-party lab, according to the memo. Balls will be tracked back to whoever was pitching when they were taken out of play.

Finally, game-day compliance officers will monitor dugouts, batting cages and bullpens for violations of the foreign substance rules while filing daily reports of their observations with the league office.

While there has long been a rule against using foreign substances on baseballs, enforcement has been sporadic. The memo states that on-field, in-game monitoring by umpires will not change, but postgame analysis could lead to punishment. The new enhanced monitoring measures will provide a "separate evidentiary basis to support a finding that a player has violated the foreign substance rules," according to the memo.

MLB has previously worked with Rawlings on a tackier baseball in an effort to curb the use of foreign substances but didn't get enough approval from players to incorporate any of the prototypes into regular-season games. Instead, a source familiar with the league's thinking told ESPN that MLB is in the early stages of working to create a new, stickier substance to rub each baseball with before games.

That new substance would replace the mud that has been incorporated across eight decades but tends to get chalky after a certain period of time, prompting players to argue that they need foreign substances to properly grip game-used balls. The absence of that new rubbing substance for 2021 means baseball will focus more on identifying egregious offenders and also collect information about the types of substances that are being utilized.

ESPN's Alden Gonzalez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.