HOUSTON — Major League Baseball confirmed on Tuesday it investigated the suspicious actions of a Houston Astros team employee at Fenway Park during Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
Fenway Park security identified an unauthorized Astros representative monitoring the Red Sox dugout with a cellphone camera from the first-base photographer’s well during the early innings of Game 1 of the ALCS.
“We are aware of the matter, and it will be handled internally,” MLB said in a statement.
As first reported by Metro Boston, the Astros were described as initially uncooperative when the security team questioned the employee.
An industry source told the Globe that MLB’s investigation concluded the Astros employee was trying to determine if the Red Sox were using dugout video monitors to steal signs from the Astros.
“This isn’t sign-relaying,” the source said of the activities by the Houston employee.
The man, identified by Yahoo! Sports as Kyle McLaughlin, was discovered during the first three innings of the game. He was removed by security and told not to return.
The behavior that was stopped, according to the source, didn’t provide a competitive advantage for the Astros.
Houston manager A.J. Hinch claimed he was unclear of the details of the incident.
“I’m aware of something going on, but I haven’t been briefed,” he said. “I’m worried about the game.”
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was informed of the situation during Game 1 and later briefed by MLB.
Dombrowski dismissed the idea that McLaughlin influenced the outcome of the game, a 7-2 Houston victory.
“It really is in Major League Baseball’s hands. I’m not concerned about it, though,” Dombrowski said. “That was taken care of very early in the game. That didn’t have anything to do with the game.
“Really, all I can say is it’s in Major League Baseball’s hands. It was done early in the game, caught early in the game . . . it did not cost us anything.”
Yahoo! Sports reported that the Indians caught McLaughlin taking photographs of their dugout during Game 3 of their Division Series against Houston and had him removed.
The Indians are believed to have warned the Red Sox.
“I’m always concerned about [sign-stealing] throughout the season,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday.
“We do a good job changing sequences and paying attention to details. And we don’t get caught up on the whole paranoia thing of the signs. . . . If we feel there’s something going on, we switch the signs.”
Since August, the Red Sox have been using multiple signs even with the bases empty. They did the same during the AL Division Series against the Yankees.
The Red Sox aren’t alone in taking extra precautions.
“If you watched [the Astros] series before with the Indians, Cleveland was doing multiple signs, too,” catcher Blake Swihart said.
“We were doing it in New York. You just don’t know what’s going to happen, and now it’s crunch time. You want to give yourself the best chance to win.”
Added catcher Sandy Leon: “You’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to be one step ahead of everybody. That’s why we’re doing that kind of stuff.”
In 2017, MLB fined the Red Sox for the wireless relaying of signals to the dugout via a device worn by a team trainer.
At the same time, the league fined the Yankees for violating a rule related to the use of a dugout phone.
Such events contribute to the sense that the use of technology to steal signs is widely practiced.
“It’s part of the game now. . . . And if you know a fastball is coming you have a better chance of hitting it than if you don’t know it’s coming,” Swihart said. “The game is changing. It’s making it tougher. You see a lot of pitchers and catchers get crossed up now — it’s crazy.
“The game sequences, the signals that you come up with are crazy. You’ve just got to stay in tune with everything.”