With an ice-cold stare on his face, Scott Servais sold the story, one that seemed a bit strange, as if it were not only true but happened just a few hours before.
Then again, given the scrutiny that Major League Baseball and its umpires have levied on Mariners reliever Hector Santiago since Sunday, Servais’ tall tale was not only plausible but believable.
During his normal pregame session Saturday afternoon, the Mariners manager was asked if Santiago has a new glove to use for his next relief appearance.
“Yeah, he went down to Dick’s Sporting Goods today, I think,” Servais said without emotion. “They did not cut him a deal either; it was the full-boat price on the glove. But, yeah, I’m sure he’ll have a different one out there today.”
The question stemmed from a minor controversy in Friday night’s extra-inning win over the Rangers where third-base umpire Adrian Johnson and home-plate umpire John Tumpane informed Santiago, who had just pitched a scoreless eighth inning, that his black glove was actually gray and that he could no longer use it if he was going to pitch.
By MLB rules, a pitcher cannot use a glove that is the same predominant color of the team’s home (white) or road (gray) uniforms and close to the color of a baseball — with or without a foreign substance on it.
When told about the situation, Santiago, who would’ve pitched the ninth inning had the Mariners not taken the lead in the bottom of the eighth, got upset. The umps said they didn’t want him to make a big deal of it, but he couldn’t pitch with the glove again.
Santiago informed them that he would make a big deal of it because it was the only glove he had, mentioning that their fellow umpires had confiscated his other glove on Sunday in Chicago.
“How many gloves do they think I have?” he asked with a laugh before Saturday’s game.
It was Santiago who exposed Servais’ joke. He was on the field playing catch and using the glove in question.
“I didn’t go to Dick’s and get a different one,” he said. “I’m trying to have (the clubhouse staff) order me a new one. I haven’t had a glove deal in three years.”
Servais later laughed at his joke.
“Did people believe me?” he asked.
Santiago happily showed off the glove in question. The Rawlings model was most definitely a black glove that has been weathered by the sun and usage with his wife’s name, Esther, embroidered on the thumb.
“It’s from 2016,” he said.
Santiago had the glove next-day shipped to Buffalo from his home in the Dominican Republic to have a glove for the series with Blue Jays. He hadn’t brought the glove because it was so old and had been stored in an awkward shape.
He seems to have every intention of using it and not giving in to the situation. He tried to wipe it off with a towel to make it more black.
“That’s what I said to the umpire and he said he was 100% sure that it was a gray glove,” Servais said. “And I said, no, it’s a black glove that’s been in the league for a long time. And he said, well, that’s not going to work.”
The glove situation was the capper to an odd night for the veteran lefty, who can’t help but feel persecuted.
When Santiago jogged in from the bullpen to pitch the eighth inning, he was met by Johnson and Tumpane to have his glove, hat and belt checked for foreign substances.
The scene has become common place in MLB games over the last week following the edict from commissioner Rob Manfred to zealously police pitcher’s illegal use of foreign substances on the baseball to increase grip or spin rate. Sometimes umpires will check a pitcher when he enters from the bullpen while others get checked after the inning is over.
Santiago got both.
He was also inspected after the inning and informed about his glove being gray and not black.
Why is he getting such treatment?
He was the first and only player to be ejected and suspended for 10 games under the new policy. Pitching in the fifth inning vs. the White Sox, Santiago was removed mid-inning by Servais. Home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi checked Santiago in typical fashion. But he spent an inordinate amount of time examining the glove, specifically where the hand is inserted.
After a conversation with the rest of the umping crew, Cuzzi ejected Santiago and the glove was placed in a plastic bag to be given to MLB for inspection. Santiago was suspended the following day despite the fact that nobody from MLB inspected the glove.
He filed an appeal and is allowed to remain on the active roster and pitch until a hearing with an arbiter, which will come in the next few days.
At the time, Santiago said he used rosin from the bag behind the mound on his left-hand and both forearms to help stop the heavy perspiration from dripping everywhere on the humid afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“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.”
And since he was in trouble for rosin, he didn’t want there to be any doubt on Friday night. Following his warm-up, Santiago picked up the rosin bag from behind the mound, walked toward the Mariners dugout and tossed it to one of the bat boys. That drew a conversation on the mound from Johnson and Tumpane, who seemed irritated and wanted to know what he was doing.
After a brief conversation, in which Santiago told them why he removed it, the umpires returned to their spots and the rosin bag was returned to the mound.
Santiago didn’t go near the rosin bag, instead shaking his hand and blowing on it to dry the sweat on it.
Many with the Mariners believe that the glove controversy was a retribution for Santiago tossing the rosin bag and “showing up” the umpires.
He wouldn’t speak to any details of the suspension or his appeal.
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.
The discrepancies of how players are checked, specifically a cursory check of Rangers starter Kyle Gibson, was noticed by the Mariners and other people around baseball.
“What’s the best way for me to answer this?” Servais said not wanting to get fined by MLB. “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. The highlight for me is he pitched really good. So he’ll be available tonight if we need him.”