Amid a Major League Baseball crackdown on pitcher-friendly foreign substances, New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole struggled to answer when asked Tuesday if he ever used a certain gooey paste called Spider Tack while on the hill.
“Not me [long pause] … I don’t know … I’m not really sure how to answer that, to be honest,” Cole said during his video conference with reporters before the Yankees began a three-game run in Minnesota.
Then he paused again before continuing: “There are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players, from the last generation of players to this generation of players, and I think there are some things that are definitely out of bounds. . in this respect.
“This is important to a lot of people who love the game, including the players in this room, including fans, including teams, so if MLB wants to sort out some more stuff, that’s a conversation we can have. Because eventually we all have to pull.” in the same direction on this.”
ESPN’s Buster Olney reported this weekend that: under a plan rapidly advanced by the competition, all MLB pitchers will be repeatedly and randomly checked for foreign matter by umpires, with each starting pitcher likely to be checked at least twice per start. Now that officials are aware that equipment checks slow down a sport in which the pace of play is deemed overly deliberate, pitchers can be checked if they walk off the field at the end of an outing. One management source estimated that there will be eight to 10 random checks for foreign substances per match.
As part of extensive comments last week about the presence of pitcher-friendly sticky stuff, Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson casually wondered aloud if Cole—whose pitches didn’t rotate that much in his last start—suddenly tried to hide the use of grip aids—usually a mix of resin and sunscreen—to avoid getting caught amid MLB’s gig .
Cole ignored the accusation on Tuesday, saying his spin rate drop was due to mechanical flaws.
“I attribute it to the fact that I’m just not as good or as sharp as I wanted to be. It’s that simple,” Cole said.
According to MLB Statcast data on the Baseball Savant website, Cole had a 125 rotations per minute drop on his four-seam fastball last week when he gave up five runs in five innings in a loss to Tampa Bay. Cole, not yet halfway through season two on a $324 million nine-year contract, is third in MLB with 104 strikeouts. The three-time All-Star has a 2.26 ERA over 75 2/3 innings and 12 starts this season.
“I just don’t quite bring out my best performance. Of course it is something that we control. Of course there are other variables that we also control when we evaluate our performance of each game. You try to collect as much information as you can as a player , and that’s definitely one of them,” Cole said. “We’re trying to get better this week and do the job, and I’ll be as prepared as possible for my next start.”
Cole is next scheduled to pitch Wednesday against Donaldson and the Twins.
Four minor league pitchers have been suspended from Major League Baseball this season after they were caught using banned foreign substances to dip baseballs, demonstrating a stronger performance in the game’s feeder system than in the major leagues during this historically dominant piece of pitching. It is suspected that the use of home-brewed tacky substances has peaked in recent seasons as a grip aid to increase spin rates on fastballs and make those pitches harder to hit.
Donaldson suggested the timing of the news of the minor league suspension was related to the changes in Cole’s spin rate. Cole called the criticism “unwanted” but declined to comment specifically on the accusation.
“I understand that this topic is important to anyone who cares about the game. With regard to Josh, I felt like it was a bit of a low hanging fruit, but he’s entitled to his opinion and his opinion, so I just have other things what to keep my focus on,” Cole said.
Donaldson said Friday that the sticky substance situation will be “the next steroid of baseball testing” because of its performance-enhancing effect on the game.
“Hitters never really cared about sunscreen, resin and pine tar. We didn’t care about that because it’s not performance enhancement. What these guys are doing now is performance enhancing, to where it’s a real super glue-type ordeal, where it’s not anymore it’s about command,” Donaldson said. “Now it’s about who throws the dirtiest throws, the more unreachable throws.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, “Ultimately, all anyone really wants — pitchers, positional players, managers — is the best possible product and the most level playing field we can create.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.