Max Scherzer denies using illegal substances after ejection from Mets-Dodgers game

Max Scherzer was ejected before the fourth inning of Wednesday's game between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers after he appeared to run afoul of MLB's rules forbidding sticky substances.

The drama began at the start of the third inning, when Scherzer met with first-base umpire Phil Cuzzi for a foreign substance check. Cuzzi ended up ordering him to change gloves for the inning, which he did.

Before the fourth inning, however, Scherzer once again had his hands and glove inspected by the umpires, and he was ejected after a heated argument.

The veteran right-hander was replaced in the game by reliever Jimmy Yacabonis.

If Scherzer is found to have been using an illegal substance, he faces an automatic 10-game suspension. He would have the right to appeal such discipline.

According to SNY field reporter Steve Gelbs, Scherzer was repeatedly shouting "It's just rosin" to the umpires before his ejection. MLB provides a rosin bag to pitchers as a legal option to improve pitch grip, but the combination of rosin and sunscreen or sweat has been known for years to provide a DIY sticky substance. Scherzer is very aware of this.

Scherzer ended his start with three scoreless innings, three strikeouts, two walks and one hit allowed. Yacabonis allowed the game's first run on a David Peralta sacrifice fly in the ensuing inning, but Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo responded with a two-run homer in the top of the fifth.

Per Gelbs, "Do it for Max!" was heard from the Mets dugout multiple times as Nimmo rounded the bases. The Mets won 5-3.

New York Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer (21) and manager Buck Showalter dispute a call from umpire Phil Cuzzi, center, and umpire Dan Bellino, right, after they found a problem with Scherzer's glove during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Wednesday, April 19, 2023. Scherzer was ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Max Scherzer didn't seem happy with the umpires at Mets-Dodgers. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Scherzer and his agent speak out

As you might imagine, Scherzer had plenty to say after the game. From SNY:

"He said my hand is too sticky. I said, 'I swear on my kids' lives, I'm not using anything else. This is sweat and rosin. Sweat and rosin.' I keep saying it over and over, and they touch my hand, they say it's sticky. I say, 'Yes, it is, because it's sweat and rosin.' And they say it's too sticky. They threw me out because of that."

Scherzer added that he washed his hand with alcohol in front of an MLB official after the third-inning dispute, argued that he would have to be "an absolute idiot" to use anything in the fourth when he knew he was going to be checked and promised Yacabonis a steak dinner for stepping in on short notice.

Meanwhile, Scherzer's agent, Scott Boras, released a statement to Joel Sherman of the New York Post calling for more consistent enforcement of the rules:

"MLB standards and rules enforcement should mandate and require an objective verifiable standard. If you want to attack the integrity of the competition you need clear precise standards, else you damage the game and its players. The Cuzzi on field spectrometer is not the answer. MLB needs to employ available scientific methods (not subjective) to create verifiable certainty of its rules."

Zach Buchanan of The Athletic also noted that Cuzzi has been responsible for all three sticky substance ejections since MLB instituted the crackdown.

Umpire counters Max Scherzer's claims

Crew chief Dan Bellino countered the criticism while speaking with a pool reporter, saying that Scherzer's hand was the stickiest the umpires had ever seen:

"The level of stickiness on his hand was much worse than it was even in the initial inspection that had taken place two innings prior ... this was the stickiest that it has been since I've been inspecting hands, which now goes back three seasons.

"It was so sticky that when we touched his hand, our fingers were sticking to his hand. And whatever was on there remained on our fingers [for a couple of innings] ... It was far more than we had ever seen before on a pitcher in live action."

Scherzer's animated ejection harkens back to the day MLB started enforcing its ban on sticky substances with mandatory umpire checks in 2021. That day, Scherzer was checked three times in four innings, once at the request of Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi, and he responded by dramatically removing his hat and belt and then barking at Girardi.