Blue Bell, PA – The FBI and officials from Major League Baseball are investigating an anonymous changeup which was mailed to Ryan Howard’s suburban Pennsylvania home. In his house during an off-day Monday, the slugger inadvertently opened the package, and struck out.
No one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the changeup, which the FBI has classified as “nasty.” MLB spokesperson Tim Wilson said the league’s intelligence office had picked up no “unusual patterns of chatter” among the nation’s independent pitching leagues. “That does not rule them out as the perpetrators,” Mr. Wilson said at a hastily-called press conference outside the batting cage at Citizens Bank Park. “We cannot say if this was the work of a lone reliever, a kid trying to make a name for himself, or an organized pitching staff.”
The FBI confirmed that the changeup was mailed in a nondescript brown box containing trace amounts of resin and chewing tobacco. Early scouting reports state that the pitch exhibited late downward break, moving away from left-handed Howard as he stood on his front porch, suggesting the anonymous pitcher was right-handed. “Howard is known for having trouble laying off these pitches. Frankly, he never had a chance,” said Mr. Wilson. “However, the pitch was at or near major league caliber, so we are not dealing with an amateur arm here,” he added. “Any major league hitter who opened that box would have been in danger of whiffing.”
Howard reported looking foolish after the unexpected strikeout, but was otherwise unharmed. “I am fine and I thank the Phillies and our fans for their support,” Howard said in a prepared statement issued through the team. “Despite not seeing any fastballs today, the sender pulled a string and I struck out. I feel fortunate my girlfriend Krystle did not open the package, or Shane [Victorino], who could have tweaked his wrist trying to check his swing.”
Commissioner Bud Selig asked all players, especially those susceptible to breaking pitches and fastballs out of the zone, to take extra precautions when opening their mail. “Should any player receive a package they think could contain a backdoor slider, a 12-6 curve, or an Uncle Charlie, we ask them to notify their team immediately,” said Mr. Selig. “Don’t be a hero.”
Howard’s teammates were supportive of their star slugger. Ryan Madson, Howard’s teammate, is known for possessing a devastating changeup which falls off the table against lefties. Madson was briefly detained by the FBI, then released. Cliff Lee said he was glad Howard had not been mailed any chin music. Manager Charlie Manuel said the incident reminded him of Stubby Overmire, a Detroit Tigers pitcher from the 1940s considered to be the best correspondence pitcher to ever play the game. Victorino, who was at Howard’s home at the time but did not witness the strikeout, said he would take precautions in the future and never open his mail with two strikes.