MLB pitcher hits batter in head with 91-mph sinker, blames the baseball

MLB is playing games with baseballs, Los Angeles Angels pitcher Michael Lorenzen has implied, metaphorically calling upon the league to get a grip.

Lorenzen was reacting to an incident in which his 91-mph fastball hit Mariners’ outfielder/DH Justin Upton in the head on Friday night at T-Mobile Park in Seattle in the fifth inning.

MLB vet Upton, who was cut loose by the very same Angels in April, had just been called up from the Mariners’ Triple-A Tacoma affiliate.

After the game, Lorenzen reportedly claimed, “I don’t know what Major League Baseball is playing with these baseballs, but that fully slipped out of my hand. It’s just crazy man. As a kid you think Major League Baseball is the greatest thing ever, and you get here and you realize, what are they doing?”

He continued: “All of a sudden they’re going to change the baseballs…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. These baseballs are straight out of the package….it looks like a planned operation, which is ridiculous.”

With a season record so far of 6-4, Lorenzen gave up seven runs in the 8-1 loss, in a game that Mariners’ starter Robbie Ray took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

Upton went down after being struck in the head with a 91-mph sinker pitch and had to leave the game in the scary incident. To the player’s credit, he was back in the lineup on Saturday, although he went hitless as his team was swept in a doubleheader. Manager Scott Servais said later that Upton fortunately never lost consciousness.

“Lorenzen isn’t the first pitcher to call out MLB for the supposed inconsistency in baseballs this season,” Sports Illustrated noted.

In late April, for example, New York Mets pitcher Chris Bassitt claimed, “The MLB has a very big problem with the baseballs. They’re bad. Everyone knows it. Every pitcher in the league knows it. They’re bad. They don’t care. The MLB doesn’t give a damn about it. They don’t care. We’ve told them there are problems with them. They don’t care….there’s no common ground with the balls….”

Although MLB has been rather timid in making the obvious and necessary rules changes desperately needed to speed up the pace of play in a sport that no longer can be considered America’s Pastime, CBS Sports insinuated that potential hit-batter scenario is an ongoing issue perhaps resulting from a league-wide-imposed pitching adjustment.

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.


A number of bench-clearing brawls or near brawls have occurred this season in particular after batters got plunked.

In a very detailed November 2021 article, Business Insider claimed, citing a study by an astrophysicist, that MLB used two “distinct” types of balls last season, a new ball with a lighter center and an older ball with a heavier center.

MLB apparently confirmed the findings in a statement to Insider.

“Rawlings manufactures Major League balls on a rolling basis at its factory in Costa Rica,” the league said. “Generally, balls are produced 6-12 months prior to being used in a game. Because Rawlings was forced to reduce capacity at its manufacturing facility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply of re-centered baseballs was not sufficient to cover the entirety of the 2021 season. To address this issue, Rawlings incorporated excess inventory into its shipments to Clubs to provide a full complement of baseballs for the 2021 season.”

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