Dodgers deny Seth Lugo’s claim they were signaling his pitches: ‘Sounds like an excuse’

Padres' Seth Lugo pitches against the Dodgers on Monday.
Padres pitcher Seth Lugo threw three scoreless innings against the Dodgers on Monday, then recorded only one out and was charged with eight runs in the fourth inning.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)
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There was a lot of eye-rolling in the Dodgers clubhouse Tuesday afternoon.

Yes, the team was aware San Diego Padres pitcher Seth Lugo claimed they were signaling his pitches from second base during their eight-run outburst against him Monday.

But no, they insisted, that wasn’t what fueled their lineup’s latest explosive rally.

“I heard a little of that,” manager Dave Roberts said of Lugo’s comments. “It’s surprising coming from him. It sounds like an excuse.”


Following the Dodgers’ 13-7 win over the Padres on Monday — in which they erased an early five-run deficit by scoring eight times in the fourth inning against Lugo, a veteran right-hander the Dodgers had actually pursued as a free agent this offseason — Lugo told reporters that, although it didn’t excuse his bad outing, he believed Dodgers hitters knew which pitches were coming.

The Dodgers overcome a rocky start from Tony Gonsolin thanks to a 15-hit effort highlighted by a Mookie Betts grand slam in a 13-7 win over the Padres.

Aug. 7, 2023

According to Lugo, when the Dodgers had a runner on second base, they would spy into his glove, decipher which pitch grip he had on the ball, then signal it to the batter at the plate.

Ahead of his outing, Lugo said he “knew coming in what they were gonna do, especially on second base.” After the big fourth inning, however, he believed he hadn’t hidden the ball well enough.

“You try to stay locked in and focused on executing pitches,” Lugo said. “And then smaller stuff just slips your mind.”

Through interviews with multiple Dodgers on Tuesday — including three of the players who were at second base during Monday’s fourth inning — the team disputed Lugo’s claims.

Said first baseman Freddie Freeman: “That’s news to me.”

Outfielder David Peralta: “I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

Outfielder Jason Heyward: “If that’s what he wants to put out there, then cool, I guess.”

That’s not to say the Dodgers don’t try to relay signals from second base — a long-established (and legal) practice of sign stealing in baseball that has become more difficult since hand signals from catchers were replaced by the electronic PitchCom system last year.


Roberts called such a practice “gamesmanship,” and Freeman acknowledged, “yeah, we always try to look into people’s gloves and find any edge we can possibly get.”

Against Lugo, however, the Dodgers said they had no edge.

Freeman led off the fourth inning with a single, then advanced to second on a walk from Max Muncy. On the first pitch of the next at-bat, Freeman took a step toward the base on Lugo’s first pitch and appeared to look into the pitcher’s glove.

After that, however, neither Freeman nor any of the other five Dodgers to reach second base in the inning made any overt gestures — such as jumping or making a hand motion — to their teammates at the plate.

“I don’t think [what Lugo claimed] was the case,” Roberts said.

The Dodgers had another explanation for their success against Lugo.

“If you see all his pitches we hit,” Peralta said, “they were right in the middle.”

A few examples: Peralta lined a changeup over the plate down the right-field line to score Freeman; Heyward smacked a hanging 1-0 curveball for a two-run double in the next at-bat; and Mookie Betts capitalized on a 3-and-0 green light later in the frame, clobbering a center-cut fastball for a grand slam that ended Lugo’s day.

“He’s his own person,” Heyward said of Lugo. “But I don’t know if I would have chose to come out and say, I felt like I got beat today because of something that they were doing.”

Newcomers Lance Lynn, Kiké Hernández and Amed Rosario each play roles in lifting the Dodgers to an 8-2, series-clinching win over the San Diego Padres.

Aug. 6, 2023

The Dodgers have been suspected of figuring out pitches in the past.

Last year, Miami Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara openly wondered whether he was tipping pitches after giving up six runs at Dodger Stadium.


“I think they have a lot of stuff to look for something for pitchers,” Alcantara said of the Dodgers that day.

In 2019, then New York Mets bench coach Jim Riggleman claimed the Dodgers had “a system that helps them get some signs and stuff” during a trip to L.A.

During the 2018 postseason, the Milwaukee Brewers raised similar concerns during the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers. According to one report from the Athletic at the time, some Brewers were concerned the Dodgers were illegally using video to decipher their signs — similar to what the Houston Astros were later discovered to be doing in their now-infamous trash-can-banging system the season prior.

Roberts has repeatedly denied any rule-breaking by his club during his eight years as manager, most recently before the start of this season after more allegations were raised in a book about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

On Tuesday, Roberts argued that paranoia toward the Dodgers is overblown.

“A lot of times it’s unfounded,” he said. “But I think the reputation itself clearly does enough to impact the pitcher.”

Suspicions about the Dodgers aren’t without some statistical backing.

Most notably: Although MLB’s league-wide batting average is two points lower with a runner on second base than not (.247 with a runner on second; .249 without a runner on second), the Dodgers are batting 20 points higher when they have a runner on the base (.267 with a runner on second; .247 without a runner on second).


The Dodgers have been on the other side of sign stealing accusations too.

The club’s World Series defeats in 2017 and 2018 came against teams in the Astros and Boston Red Sox that were later found to have broken sign-stealing rules those seasons. (Ironically, the Dodgers hired a former Red Sox staffer this offseason, game planning and communication coach J.T. Watkins, who had been suspended in the latter scandal.)

J.T. Watkins, a video coordinator suspended by MLB for his part in the Red Sox sign-stealing scandal, will help the Dodgers form game plans for hitting.

Feb. 19, 2023

Heyward also recalled that, while he was a member of the Chicago Cubs during the 2016 NLCS against the Dodgers, “they thought we were doing the same thing, and we weren’t.”

With regard to Monday’s game against Lugo and the Padres, though, the Dodgers were adamant about their version of the story.

“We were looking for a mistake, he was making mistakes, and we were making him pay,” Peralta said.

Added Freeman: “We seem to get accused a lot. But that just means we’re putting up big crooked numbers on people. That’s a good thing.”