Is it cheating if a pitcher uses a cheat sheet?
Phillies reliever Austin Davis is about to find out.
In a bizarre scene Saturday night, Davis was on the mound in the eighth inning when he reached into his back pocket and pulled out an index card with notes gleaned from the Phillies' scouting meeting before their series against the Chicago Cubs. Umpire crew chief Joe West stopped play and told Davis that the card had to be confiscated in accordance with Rule 6.02(c)(7), which states that a pitcher may not have any foreign substance in his possession or on his person.
"This caught us off guard," West told a pool reporter from the Associated Press. "I've been here 40 years. I ain't never seen it before."
It has become common for outfielders to keep an index card in their pocket to help with their positioning, and several catchers wear wristbands that include notations to assist in calling pitches. Pitchers are getting into the act, too. Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke took a peek at a crib sheet during a recent start to get additional information on a San Diego Padres hitter.
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler objected to West's taking away Davis' card but was told the rule would be applied.
"I mean, it's not like he's trying to hide anything," Kapler said. "He's standing on the back of the mound, pulling this card out of his pocket and using it to help us attack hitters. Our catchers have them on their wrists. It doesn't make sense to me."
Davis, a rookie lefty who was reinstated from the disabled list Saturday, said he has used the card in other games this season. He values the information provided by the Phillies' research and development department but would rather not have to memorize it.
According to Davis, the card isn't laminated and isn't covered with any substance that could be used to doctor the ball.
"Usually it's a quick glance and go," Davis said. "I was waiting for whoever it was to get in the [batter's] box. I think it took an extra second or something and caught [West's] eye."
West said he filed a report about the incident and was told the commissioner's office would provide clarification.
"I saw him take it out and I went, 'What the heck is that?'" West said. "I said, 'You can have it back after the game, but you can't have it now.' I don't want to kick him out of the game for this. That's overkill. But does he have the right to carry it? That I don't know. Right now, until the office says it's OK to carry this, he can't do it.
"This is new for me. I just did what I thought was right. I really didn't want to take the card, but he took it out and let everyone see it."
Outfielder Aaron Altherr was among six players added to the Phillies' roster on Saturday, the first chance for teams to expand beyond 25 players. Altherr, reliever Yacksel Rios and outfielder Dylan Cozens were called up from triple-A Lehigh Valley, while Davis, reliever Edubray Ramos and utility infielder Pedro Florimon were reinstated from the disabled list.
Altherr broke through last season with 19 home runs in 372 at-bats. But he slumped badly early this year, lost playing time in right field to Nick Williams and was batting .171 with six homers, 81 strikeouts and a .595 OPS when he was optioned to triple A on July 22.
"I think, for me, it was just the timing," Altherr said. "I hit a lot of balls right at people, and it could've been a lot different story if maybe those balls had fallen and the confidence wouldn't have dropped like it did. Anything could've happened if a couple things went my way."
But Altherr didn't exactly find his 2017 stroke in Lehigh Valley. In 119 at-bats, he batted .244 with two homers, 37 strikeouts and a .657 OPS.
Kapler said Altherr will be used off the bench as a defensive replacement, a pinch runner and a pinch hitter against a lefty.