Angels’ Michael Lorenzen blames slick baseball for pitch that hit Mariners’ Justin Upton in head
In the fifth inning of the Angels’ eventual 8-1 loss to the Mariners on Friday evening, Los Angeles starter Michael Lorenzen uncorked a full-count, 91-mph sinker that unfortunately struck Seattle’s Justin Upton in the head. Here’s a look:
Fortunately, Upton, the former Angel who had just been recalled from Triple-A by the Mariners prior to Friday’s game, appeared to be not seriously injured. ”He was conscious and talking the whole time,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said after the game. ”I greeted him after we came in after the game, and I’ll text and check in with him tomorrow morning. Right now, we’ll see if maybe he can be our DH tomorrow. Wait and see how it works out.”
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As for Lorenzen, he was of course heavily chagrined by what happened, and he placed the blame on what he sees as the lack of grip on baseballs this season. Here are Lorenzen’s full postgame comments on the matter, via Jeff Fletcher:
“I don’t know what Major League Baseball is playing with these baseballs, but that fully slipped out of my hand. These baseballs are slick. They did get someone hurt. So that’s on Major League Baseball for sure. I don’t know what’s going on. Those baseballs are straight out of the package.
“As a kid, you feel like Major League Baseball is the greatest thing ever, and you get there and realize, what are they doing? All of a sudden they’re going to change the baseballs. I know (Kevin) Gausman had an issue in Toronto. So it’s a league-wide thing.
“Throw them out all you want to get new ones, but they’re all like that. It looks league-wide. It looks like a planned operation, which is ridiculous.”
In response to rising spin rates and vaulting strikeout rates, MLB cracked down on the use of highly sticky substances like spider tack by pitchers, which means pitchers have been forced to rely on traditional means of grip enhancement even in an era of increasing velocity and movement. This hasn’t really manifested itself in, say, degraded performance by pitchers, but at least anecdotally the frequency of pitches “getting away” from hurlers may be on the uptick. All of this is at least partially related to the league’s questionable oversight of baseball manufacturing practices and perhaps intentional manipulation of the ball to affect run-scoring levels and the like.
In May, commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed that the league is testing new grip aids that could be permitted for in-game use starting with the 2023 season, but for the current season this figures to remain an issue — a potentially dangerous issue, as Lorenzen suggested.