Philadelphia Phillies manager Rob Thomson says he isn’t concerned about Houston starter Framber Valdez’s unusual hand rubbing during Game 2 of the World Series, downplaying speculation on social media that the left-hander was up to something fishy during a dominant victory.
Videos circulating on the internet showed Valdez repeatedly rubbing his left thumb across his right palm, then rubbing the ball between pitches. Valdez pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning of the Astros’ 5-2 victory, which evened the Series at a win each.
Thomson said Philadelphia’s dugout noticed what Valdez was doing but had no concern that he was adding a foreign substance to the ball.
“Yeah, we did… it’s all over Twitter,” he said. “The umpires check these guys after almost every inning, and if there’s something going on, MLB will take care of it.”
Valdez found it amusing that people thought he was doctoring the ball.
“Nobody should think of it as anything like in the wrong way,” he said via translator. “I do it out in the open. But it’s all tendencies I do. I do it throughout the game. Maybe distract the hitter a little bit from what I’m doing. Like maybe look at me, rubbing different things, and nothing about the pitch that I’m going to throw. I’ve been doing it all season.”
Valdez allowed four hits and one run with nine strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings for his sixth postseason win. That ties Pedro Martinez for most playoff wins by a pitcher born in the Dominican Republic.
Suspicions over illegal grip aids peaked during the 2021 season, prompting Major League Baseball to crack down with in-game umpire checks.
During Game 3 of an NL wild-card series, New York Mets manager Buck Showalter asked umpires to inspect San Diego Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove for illegal goop. They checked the right-hander in several places, including by rubbing his unusually shiny ears, but found no evidence of anything illicit.
Valdez said the hand rubbing is just one of the unorthodox things he likes to do when he pitches. Midway through his outing Saturday, he changed his glove and his spikes — and it turns out — some other things, too.
“I normally have different spikes when I warm up and the ones that I go into the game,” he said. “Today I decided to start the game with the ones I warmed up in. I had a long inning there and I was like: ‘You know what, I’m going to change everything. I’m going to change my glove, my belt, my cleats.’ And those are just things that us Dominicans do, just some tendencies here and there … but just things to stay loose.”