It didn’t take long for Jameson Taillon to determine Spider Tack wasn’t for him.
The Yankees right-hander had plenty of time to “mess around” during his most recent recovery from Tommy John surgery. So when a friend with a can of the extremely tacky paste offered some up, Taillon gave it a shot.
Spider Tack and other high-grade sticky substances have helped some pitchers to increase their spin rates by a few hundred RPMs. Taillon, however, “couldn’t even throw the ball with it.”
“It gave me the yips,” he said Thursday. “It freaked me out. So I mean, that was enough for me. I think some people have figured out a way to make that kind of stuff work. But for me, it wasn’t the answer.”
The topic of foreign substances has been a popular one around Major League Baseball, including the Yankees, lately. Gerrit Cole, Taillon’s current and former teammate and friend, offered a jumbled answer earlier in the week when directly asked if he has used Spider Tack. That question came after Twins 3B Josh Donaldson wondered aloud if Cole was one of the sport’s many pitchers taking foreign substances too far.
Donaldson’s comments last week came as the league prepares to enforce its long-overlooked rules against using illegal substances. Taillon, for one, is looking forward to the expected crackdown. He even believes it’s going to help the Yankees.
“If they’re gonna police properly and they’re actually taking this seriously and umpires are gonna go out there and inspect pitchers and the game’s going clean, I’m really excited for it,” Taillon said. “My personal take on it is, I think it’s going to help really talented teams and talented groups. So when I look inside our locker room, I think it’s going to actually help us going forward. I know that seems crazy to say, but we have so much talent in our room that I think eliminating the sticky stuff can actually help us as a group. That’s the way I’m looking at it.”
Speaking specifically of Cole, who Taillon has known since their days in the Pirates organization, Taillon said, “I’m confident that he’s going to be the same guy going forward. If not even better. I think this may have lit a little bit of a fire under him… I don’t think some sticky stuff or whatever is what makes Gerrit Cole Gerrit Cole.”
Cole threw six innings against the Twins on Wednesday, allowing two runs on two homers. He struck Donaldson out twice and retired him all three times he faced him. The difference in Cole’s spin rates were marginal compared to his yearly averages and his last start on June 3, when his fastball saw a 125-RPM drop, which Donaldson made note of in his initial comments.
Regardless of the impact enforcement will have on the Yankees or his fellow pitchers, Taillon believes the league should ban all substances, at least temporarily. That includes rosin, which he doesn’t “love.” Traditionally, rosin bags are accessible on the mound and the use of substances such as sunscreen and pine tar have been ignored, so long as pitchers are not obvious about it. Batters, after all, want pitchers to have control of the ball, especially when 100-mph hurlers are now a dime a dozen.
The issue has become the utilization of super strength adhesives such as, but not limited to, Spider Tack, which was made to help strongmen and strongwoman lift Atlas Stones. More tack is giving pitchers more grip. That gives their pitches more spin, and therefore more movement.
Some, like Liam Hendriks, disagree with Taillon’s idea of a full-fledged ban. He thinks baseball should implement a “universal substance”—other than rosin—while policing a banned list of stuff. Taillon said a total ban can always be revisited if batters start getting plunked at a higher rate.
“I think it’s one of those things that it’s best if we just don’t allow anything right now,” Taillon said.
The right-hander’s opinions on foreign substances have been influenced by hitters. He’s listened to them speak about the disadvantages they face and the changes they’ve seen after years in the big leagues. Donaldson’s comments stood out in Yankees world this past week, but Taillon also referenced recent remarks made by Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon and another one of his teammates.
“We know how pitches should move,’’ Giancarlo Stanton said Wednesday. “I’ve seen professional pitching for 13-14 years. We know how balls are supposed to move… So when you’re getting older and the ball is moving more and having more life to it, usually something’s up there.”
Taillon has heard these complaints and knows the numbers back up how hitters are feeling. With iPads in the Yankees’ dugout and pitch-tracking data readily available, he’s seen it in real time.
“I’ll go back and look at a strikeout pitch or whatever. I love going back and watching from a different angle, and you’ll see a guy throw like a 2,300-rpm fastball, and then on the very next pitch throw a 2,800-rpm fastball, which is pretty insane,” Taillon said. “So what these hitters are seeing and what they’re saying definitely matches up.
“Giancarlo’s a good example. The guy’s been in the big leagues for a long time, had a ton of success, seen a lot of pitchers around the league. If he thinks it’s a problem, then clearly it is.”
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