Diamondbacks get more complex to prevent sign-stealing

Jul 17, 2020, 9:42 AM
Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo talks with an umpire during an intrasquad baseball game ...

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo talks with an umpire during an intrasquad baseball game at practice Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

Months after it was revealed that the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox were involved in illegal sign-stealing, the Arizona Diamondbacks have switched up the way they reveal pitch call signs to one another.

The change isn’t related to the Astros and Red Sox scandals per se, and catcher Carson Kelly said it’s good to routinely change up the way his team does things. But during summer camp this week, a D-backs hurler was spotted referring to a card in his hat for pitch sequence information.

“It has a lot to do with not giving up the sign sequence to second base,” manager Torey Lovullo told reporters. “We work extremely hard to not be decoded. We know there’s some very talented players out there that can stand on second base, and within three or four pitches, know what the sign sequence is.”

Lovullo said the number of sequences involved in the D-backs’ system has increased, creating the need for a reference point.

“We’ve been very demanding of them in the three previous years to keep it in their head,” Lovullo said. “But now we’ve added more sequences. And instead of having one or two or three in their head, we are now asking them to keep track of nine to 12 different sequences. Almost impossible. So we put it down on a piece of paper.

“I’m paranoid about it. I’m not going to relax in this area, because I don’t want anyone to decode anything that we’re doing.”

Lovullo treaded lightly when asked whether he felt there were situations last season when sign-stealing definitively cost them games.

“I’m going to say possibly. But not maliciously. It wasn’t done with any cheating tactics,” he said. “I believe that all the teams that we were playing against last year were keeping it between the lines. So that’s why we’ve gotten a few more sign sequences and we’re going to make it a little bit tougher, just in case.”

As Kelly put it, the new system is more complex but more simple at the same time.

“Trying to make it as simple as possible for us but also hard to detect,” he said.

“Obviously the sign-stealing was pretty rampant [last year],” pitcher Robbie Ray said. “So I feel like we’re not the first team to put a card in a hat to change up the signs. So that’s just something that we have that is just a safeguard if we feel like something is going awry, a guy on second base has some signs, you just take your hat off, some guys keep it in their back pocket, you pull it out, easy switch of the signs and then you go. We’re definitely not the only team that does that.”

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