Home News Drew Smith returns from ban to shorthanded Mets bullpen

Drew Smith returns from ban to shorthanded Mets bullpen

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PHILADELPHIA — Drew Smith served the final game of his 10-game suspension for violating MLB’s sticky substance policy Sunday and is due back in the Mets’ bullpen Monday against Milwaukee.

And as frustrating as the suspension was, since Smith remains adamant that he did nothing wrong when umpires ruled his hands were too sticky as he entered the game against the Yankees on June 13, he’s just as concerned about what’s going to happen going forward.

“That’s the hard thing,” Smith said Sunday. “It was hot that day, like today, and it’s humid and right now my hand is tacky, just from playing catch with the rosin. Once it’s hotter, if you use the [rosin] bag, you could be in trouble.”

Smith was allowed to be in the clubhouse and on the field at Citizens Bank Park prior to Sunday’s game, but had to watch the 7-6 loss to the Phillies from a suite at the ballpark while serving his suspension.

With the Mets’ bullpen shorthanded again since they weren’t able to fill Smith’s roster spot during his suspension and Brooks Raley and Adam Ottavino were unavailable, Buck Showalter was left with one less option to go to..

New York Mets relief pitcher Drew Smith (40) reacts to being ejected after his hands were inspected during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees Tuesday, June 13, 2023, in New York.

“That’s the problem with [Smith] being gone,’’ Showalter said. “We only have ‘X’ number of pitchers to go to.”

That proved costly Sunday, when Showalter went with inexperienced relievers Josh Walker and Jeff Brigham, who fell apart in a disastrous eighth that helped send the Mets to another loss.

Smith spent the first four days of the ban at the team’s complex in Port St. Lucie, where he threw a pair of side sessions and threw another Friday.

Smith has also spoken to Max Scherzer, who was suspended earlier this season for what Scherzer called “sweat and rosin.”

“He was in the same boat as me and said his first couple of outings back, he was wary of it,’’ Smith said. “He just said to be more careful in the bullpen and maybe don’t pick up the rosin as much.”

Smith doesn’t want to alter his warm-up routine, since he said, “I wasn’t doing anything wrong in the first place, but I have to be more conscious of it going forward.”

And he’s still wondering what happened against the Yankees, when he was ejected before even throwing a pitch, as crew chief Bill Miller came over from first base to check Smith on the mound and tossed him.

“I’d never been checked directly on the mound like that,’’ Smith said. “It was random.”

Smith pointed to the fact that the average velocity of his four-seam fastball had jumped in his previous outing against the Pirates, from 95 mph to 97.

Drew Smith
Drew Smith
Robert Sabo

“That was strictly from mechanical changes,” Smith said, noting that after making some adjustments in the offseason and seeing his velocity dip compared to 2022, he reverted back to his previous motion. “The previous week or so, I was working on my old mechanics and in the Pittsburgh game, it clicked.”

He also said that his spin rate remained roughly the same in that appearance from earlier appearances. An increased spin rate tends to be an indicator of excess sticky substances.

“It might have just been bad luck that it happened to me, but four of the five guys that have gotten [suspended] this year have been from our organization,’’ Smith said, with Smith and Scherzer in the majors and Dylan Bundy and Eric Orze at Triple-A Syracuse.

Domingo German of the Yankees is the only other pitcher who’s been punished this season.

“The way it’s been handled the last year and a half, the league could do a much better job,’’ Smith said. “For all of us to get banged from the same organization, I know we’re not the only team using that rosin.”

But when he gets back to the bullpen Monday, Smith said he’s hoping not to focus too much on it.

“I’m ready to stop thinking about it,’’ Smith said. “Once I get the first check out of the way, I think I’ll be all right. We’ll see.”

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