MILWAUKEE – Some of the Cubs were still laughing Friday about the ball that got stuck to Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina’s chest protector for no apparent, ordinary baseball reason.
But nobody was calling for major league baseball to investigate or suggesting the Cardinals were loading the ball – or necessarily the chest protector – even if they were.
In fact, Cubs veteran catcher Miguel Montero suggested he might have learned a new trick from Molina.
“Maybe that’s why he blocks the ball and the ball dies right there,” said Montero who said it’s “not normal on the chest protector” but that he sometimes puts sticky stuff on his shin guard for grip. “I don’t think it’s illegal. It’s smart though. I might think of doing it now. You learn something new every day.”
For the record, both Molina and pitcher Brett Cecil denied using pine tar, Tuf-Skin spray or any other sticky substance on the ball or the chest protector. Cecil offered Friday to let reporters look at all his gloves.
Molina after Thursday’s game called a question about putting stuff on his chest protector “a dumb question.”
By rule, the only thing that matters is if the substance was on the ball or if it was on the pitcher’s “person or in his possession.”
Rule 3.01 prohibits any player from “intentionally discolor[ing] or damag[ing]the ball by rubbing it with soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sand-paper, emery paper or other foreign substance.”
The penalty calls for an ejection and 10-game suspension.
Obviously, the umpire found no cause for ejection, and MLB has no grounds for action. And, besides, the inning that began with that play turned into a four-run inning and a Cubs victory.
“It’s probably like Tuf-Skin,” said Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, a teammate of Molina in 2015. “I’ve never seen that happen. We joked about it the next time I came to the plate.
“The guys that aren’t pitchers you see them have stuff on them all the time on the glove or whatever,” he added. “That’s fine. Catchers have stuff all the time. Some catchers cut the ball, whatever. I’m not saying he does it, obviously. …
“Part of the game,” Heyward said.
Another record for Bryant – then a hit
When Kris Bryant flied out to the wall in right in his first at-bat Friday, he broke the record for most hitless at-bats (14) to start a season for a defending league MVP.
The previous record? That was held by Cub Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Famer, with 13 to start a 1985 All-Star season in which he hit .305 with 26 homers and an .868 OPS.
Bryant, by they way, reached in his next two at-bats, including his first hit of the season in the fifth – an infield hit in which he grounded a ball that hit the third-base bag, then beat the throw to first.
Left-hander Brian Duensing, who’s on the disabled list (back spasms), pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning during Class AAA Iowa’s season opener Thursday.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon suggested no specific timeline or workload plans for Duensing before activating him to the big-league roster, but indications are he could return by next weekend’s home series against the Pirates.
The move likely would mean a decision between bench players Matt Szczur and Tommy La Stella as the corresponding move – with La Stella the likeliest because he has minor-league options.