Armed with a fastball that can hum up to 100mph into the late innings, and a range of other plus pitches, New York Yankees champion Gerrit Cole’s talent and ability to create spin on baseball have made for an elite arsenal. .
And across the board, Cole’s spin rates had plummeted on his last start.
“I’m crediting the fact that I just wasn’t as good or as sharp as I wanted to be,” Cole said on Tuesday of his last outing, when he gave up five runs in five innings against the Tampa Bay Rays.
But Cole is no stranger to the suggestion that his spin speeds have been aided by sticky substances, which: MLB now plans to enforce in this season of high strikeouts and low batting averages.
Last week, Minnesota Twins third baseman and former AL MVP Josh Donaldson asked out loud to reporters about the timing of Cole’s noticeably reduced spin rates.
Four minor league pitchers had just been suspended 10 games for using foreign substances.
“I felt like it was a bit of low-hanging fruit,” Cole said of Donaldson’s comments, during a week that saw MLB owners agree to deal with the sticky substances in the game.
“But he has a right to his opinion and to express his opinion,” said Cole, adding that as a member of the baseball union executive council, “my role is to facilitate communication about all things involved in the game. to ease.
“I’m open to doing that, it’s part of my role. If anyone is concerned about anything, we are always available to contact us and talk if any clarification is needed.”
Cole carefully formulated his comments on the subject Thursday before the Yankees started a series in Minnesota against Donaldson’s team.
That included a lengthy pause when asked directly if he’d ever applied Spider Tack — a product designed to improve grip for power weightlifters, among other non-baseball-intended uses — on his throwing hand to better grip a baseball. to keep.
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“To be honest, I’m not really sure how to answer that,” Cole said before tacitly acknowledging MLB’s public secret.
“There are habits and customs that have been passed down from older players to younger players,” Cole said, adding that “some things are definitely out of balance in that regard.
“And in that regard, I’ve been pretty steadfast, in terms of communication between our colleagues and stuff.”
Cole was one of several big-name pitchers named in a since-dismissed wrongful termination lawsuit by a visiting Los Angeles Angels clubhouse clerk over being given a foreign substance to apply to baseballs to gain traction. to get.
A text message, allegedly sent by Cole about getting the mixture, was attached to the pack.
Applying a little pine tar or a resin/sunscreen mixture, especially in cool, dry conditions, is generally accepted if not done overtly.
There is an admission that hitters don’t want the alternative of dodging wayward 98mph pitches due to a slipping grip.
But things like Spider Tack and crazy spin speeds have changed the landscape.
“This is important for a lot of people who love the game,” Cole said, in general about sticky substances.
“If MLB wants to sort out a few more things, that’s a conversation we can have because ultimately we should all be pulling in the same direction.”
At the same time as Cole’s spin rate dropped, reigning NL Cy Young award winner Trevor Bauer also saw a spin rate drop on his last start.
Cole’s staff mate at UCLA, Bauer has cast a shadow over Cole in the past for his increased spin rates when he landed with the Houston Astros in 2018.
Avoiding personal grievances, Cole again offered that “people are entitled to their opinions” and that his focus was to “get better every day.
“Just have more things on my plate that are important for us to win games now,” said Cole. “I’m not thrilled about it, but … I just have to leave it where it is.”