MLB chief denies 'juiced' baseballs after home run blitz

New York (AFP) –


Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred on Tuesday denied claims that baseballs had been altered to boost offense after an explosion in home runs this season.

Speaking ahead of the MLB All-Star Game, Manfred rejected criticism from Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander that the league had deliberately "juiced" balls to tilt the advantage in favour of big hitters.

"Baseball has done nothing, given no direction for an alteration in the baseball," Manfred told reporters in Cleveland.

"The flaw in logic is that baseball wants more home runs. If you sat in owners meetings and listened to people on how the game is played, that is not a sentiment among the owners for whom I work."

Manfred however did acknowledge there was "less drag" on baseballs being used this year, which could be responsible for the spike in home run statistics.

"Pitchers have raised issues particularly about the tackiness and seams on the baseball, and we do believe those could be issues," Manfred said.

At the current pace, Major League Baseball is on target to record 6,668 home runs this year, nearly 1,100 more than last season, and 500 more than the all-time record of 6,105.

Verlander told ESPN on Monday he believed "100 percent the explosion in home runs was down to an order from the league to make balls more friendly for offense".

"Major League Baseball's turning this game into a joke," Verlander said, adding that he believed Manfred was responsible for perceived changes to baseballs.

"We all know what happened," Verlander added. "Manfred the first time he came in, what'd he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It's not coincidence. We're not idiots."

Manfred however is adamant there is "no desire among ownership to increase homers.

"To the contrary, (owners) are concerned about how many we have," he added.