Gerrit Cole found himself stuck when talking about sticky stuff on Tuesday.
With MLB preparing to crack down on the use of foreign substances by pitchers and Josh Donaldson recently wondering if Cole was among the perpetrators, the Yankees ace was asked point blank if he has ever used Spider Tack. The “super-sticky paste” made for lifters and strongmen has become one of the high-grade substances (opposed to rosin, sunscreen and pine tar) pitchers are using to increase their spin rates and gain an edge.
Cole, seemingly unprepared for the predictable question, took a lengthy pause before serving up a bowl of word salad:
The subject of loading baseballs has been a popular one in the sport lately as MLB looks to curb the problem, and it dominated the entirety of Cole’s nearly-15-minute Zoom presser on Tuesday.
The topic and Cole have been paired before.
Trevor Bauer, who has since become a sticky-stuff suspect himself—not that he’s tried to avoid suspicion—publicized the issue of foreign substances on Twitter in 2018 when Cole, his ex-college teammate, was still in Houston and enjoying significant jumps in spin rate (numbers that have gone up since). Many believed Bauer was talking about Astros pitchers at the time, though he stated that the use of foreign substances was a “widespread” matter.
There was also the January lawsuit brought by Bubba Harkins, a fired Angels clubhouse employee. He alleged that Cole, now-teammate Corey Kluber, Washington’s Max Scherzer and Houston’s Justin Verlander, among others, were using ball-doctoring substances.
Just last week, Donaldson took note of Cole’s decreased spin rate. With stricter MLB enforcement of long-disregarded rules expected, Cole’s fastball saw a 125-RPM decrease in his June 3 start against the Rays. All his other pitches suffered dips as well.
Cole, who surrendered five earned runs and recorded his second-worst game score of the season that day, attributed the drop in spin rate to not “bringing out my best delivery.” Donaldson, meanwhile, alluded to other factors possibly playing a role.
“Is it coincidence that Gerrit Cole’s spin rate numbers went down after four minor leaguers got suspended for 10 games?” Donaldson asked last Thursday, per The Athletic. “Is that possible? I don’t know. Maybe. At the same time, with this situation, they’ve let guys do it.”
With the Yankees starting a series against Donaldson and the Twins on Tuesday—and with Cole slated to pitch Wednesday—the right-hander was asked about the third baseman’s comments.
“It’s undesirable, but I understand that this topic is important to everybody that cares about that game,” Cole said. “In regards to Josh specifically, I kind of felt it was low-hanging fruit, but he’s entitled to his opinion and to voice his opinion. I just have other things that I need to keep my focus on, so, respectfully, I can’t worry about that type of stuff. I would say that, as a member of the executive council in the union, part of my job, part of my role there is to facilitate communication about all things involving the game. I’m open to doing that. It’s part of my role. If anyone has a concern regarding anything, we’re always available to reach out and talk to if there needs to be some clarification.”
Cole offered a similar response when asked if he wanted to address Bauer’s previous insinuations, adding, “It doesn’t make me happy. I’m not thrilled about it.”
Aaron Boone, meanwhile, said he “didn’t make much” of Donaldson’s comments on Sunday. The Yankees manager went on to say that he believes his pitching staff is “mostly above board.” On Tuesday he added that he has never seen Spider Tack in New York’s clubhouse.
“There’s things out there that have probably taken this way too far,” Boone said. “It’s obviously something that’s front and center with Major League Baseball. In the end, I think all that anyone really wants… is the best possible product and the most level of playing field that we can create all the time.”
Donaldson and Bauer were among those to offer similar sentiments when discussing the subject in recent days. Cole did as well toward the end of his aforementioned dodge.
“If MLB wants to legislate some more stuff,” Cole said, “that’s a conversation we can have.”
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