Suarez — who later contended that he was only using the regular amount of sunscreen that he uses during all day games — was subject to a routine check just behind the mound prior to throwing his warmup pitches. Umpires inspected both his throwing hand and his glove hand before the right-hander was ejected by crew chief Todd Tichenor.
“We were doing a routine spot check for a foreign substance,” Tichenor said in a pool report. “He was observed to have a sticky substance on his glove-hand side. All four of us got together, and we deemed that it was too sticky — very sticky — and he was ejected from the game.”
Suarez said he was surprised by the ejection and that he hadn’t used any foreign substances, which can be used to help increase spin on pitches.
“Like any day game, I put on some sunscreen, and that’s what they saw,” Suarez said through an interpreter. “That’s what led to their decision to eject me from the game. … I definitely don’t use any illegal substance, any banned substance at all.”
“I’m just going to explore my options, see what options I have, and go from there,” Suarez said.
Sunscreen, of course, is not a banned substance. Neither is rosin, bags of which are routinely provided to pitchers. But when combined liberally, the two can create a sticky substance that would meet the threshold for an ejection.
Tichenor said the violation was due to a substance on Suarez’s “general wrist area,” and his crew made Suarez roll up his sleeve to further inspect his left arm. Tichenor said he couldn’t determine what specific substance had been used.
“I wish I could,” Tichenor said. “I know that it was probably more than rosin. I’ve been trained on that. But I couldn’t tell you what it was.”
Suarez disputed the notion that it was anything illegal.
“It was just the sunblock,” he said. “Like I said, that’s what I use for day games, and that’s what they saw. But outside of anything besides sunblock, it wasn’t anything else.”
In 13 appearances this season, Suarez had posted a 4.73 ERA after missing the first half with an elbow injury. He was one of the Padres’ most valuable relief weapons last season and signed a five-year contract to remain with the club during the offseason.
“We have guys down there to overcome it,” said Padres manager Bob Melvin when asked about the effects of a 10-game suspension, should it come to be. “Obviously he’s a big piece for us. But similar to an injury, sometimes you just have to move on, and other guys have to step up.”
One of those options is left-hander Tom Cosgrove, who took Suarez’s place and was given as much time as needed to warm up. He pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning.