SEATTLE — Phil Nevin is not just a concerned manager. He’s a concerned father.
Hours before one of the Angels pitchers complained that he had hit a batter in the head because the baseballs were too slick, Nevin watched his own son, Baltimore Orioles third baseman Tyler Nevin, get hit by pitches twice.
“When you can’t grip the ball like that, it’s scary, with how hard guys throw,” the Angels interim manager said before Saturday’s doubleheader. “I think it’s something that certainly needs to be addressed. Absolutely. When you’ve got this many pitchers, veteran pitchers, talking about it, and it’s just certain places that it’s happening, there’s probably reasons behind why they’re not rubbed up enough.”
Angels right-handers Michael Lorenzen and Ryan Tepera had issues with the baseballs Thursday and Friday in Seattle. New York Mets right-hander Chris Bassitt and Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Kevin Gausman have also recently made comments about the state of the baseballs.
The average number of hit batters in the majors is down from last season, which was down from the season before.
Still, Major League Baseball has acknowledged the need to make the baseballs more tacky so pitchers don’t need to apply any foreign substances, which can create a competitive advantage by increasing spin. MLB has experimented with balls made of different materials, so they are more sticky right out of the box, like those used in Asia.
In the meantime, they continue to simply rub up the baseballs with a special mud before they are used in a game. The home team is responsible for applying the mud.
Mariners left-hander Robbie Ray also questioned the process in Seattle, even after he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Angels.
“The issue is the rub they put on them,” Ray told the Seattle Times on Saturday morning. “The baseballs are really slick here. And it’s different in every stadium. The balls here have been some of the slickest.”
Ray added that the condition of the balls is better at the start of the game than the end.
“The balls in the first few innings were OK,” Ray said. “I don’t know if they run out of the rubbed-up balls and they are scrambling to get more rubbed up. But it seems like the balls later in the game are slicker.”
It was the fifth inning Friday night when Lorenzen had one get away, and it plunked former teammate Justin Upton in the helmet. Lorenzen quickly walked toward the plate to check on Upton.
After the game, he said the condition of the baseballs was to blame.
“These baseballs are slick,” Lorenzen said. “They did get someone hurt. So that’s on Major League Baseball for sure. I don’t know what’s going on. These baseballs are straight out of the package.”
A night earlier, Tepera tossed out several baseballs and then had animated discussions with two umpires about the balls.
Nevin said the Angels have not had any problems at home. None of the Angels has publicly said anything about the balls in any of the other parks in which they’ve played this season. Nevin also suggested the chilly weather in Seattle may have contributed to the balls being more slick.
UP FROM SALT LAKE
First baseman David MacKinnon was with the Angels on Saturday as part of the taxi squad. Nevin said they brought him up because first baseman Jared Walsh was sick Friday, so they wanted to be prepared if Walsh was unable to play.
Walsh was feeling well enough Saturday morning that Nevin’s plan was for him to play in both games of the doubleheader.
That left MacKinnon unsure what the plan was for him, but he was nonetheless thrilled to be in a big-league clubhouse.
“It is weird,” he said. “Usually you go to the big leagues and you’re playing baseball. It’s weird right now for sure. I’m kind of in a limbo stage where you don’t know what’s going on, but either way it’s awesome to be here.”
MacKinnon, 27, was hitting .327 with a 1.056 OPS at Triple-A, a breakout season for the Angels’ 32nd-round pick in the 2017 draft.
Infielder Jack Mayfield added some levity to the end of Friday’s 8-1 loss by pitching a scoreless inning, including a handful of knuckleballs. One of them registered as the pitch with the least spin since 2015, when tracking began.
Mayfield said he’s fooled around with a knuckleball on the side for years — like most position players — but he was surprised when catcher Max Stassi wanted him to throw it in the game.
“I’ve never thrown it on the mound,” Mayfield said Saturday. “It was a little more nerve-wracking definitely on the mound, with the hitter up there, trying to control it and not let it hit the guy. It was fun.”
The Angels will need to make a roster move Sunday to activate Kenny Rosenberg for his first big-league start. They did not have to make a move for José Suarez on Saturday because teams are allowed to add a 27th man for a doubleheader. …
On Monday, the Angels will need to replace one pitcher with a position player to meet MLB’s roster limits. Starting Monday, teams will be permitted to carry just 13 pitchers. The Angels will be allowed to have 14, because two-way player Shohei Ohtani doesn’t count as a pitcher.
Angels (LHP Kenny Rosenberg, 0-0, 7.50) at Mariners (RHP Logan Gilbert, 7-2, 2.22), 1:10 p.m. Sunday, Bally Sports West, 830 AM