After fumbling through a recent press conference, freezing for several seconds when asked if he had ever used Spider Tack, Yankees ace Gerrit Cole has emerged, for better or worse, as the face of MLB’s current conundrum regarding illegal foreign substances. The All-Star right-hander was a deer in the headlights when grilled about foreign substances last week, but seemed much more prepared when the subject was raised Wednesday after his start against Toronto. Cole delivered eight strong innings, limiting the Blue Jays to four hits and two runs in the winning effort, but admitted he was laboring for much of that outing.
“It’s so hard to grip the ball. I mean, for Pete’s sake, it’s part of the reason why almost every player on the field has something—regardless of whether they’re a pitcher or not—to help them control the ball,” said Cole, echoing the frustration voiced by fellow pitchers Jack Flaherty and Carlos Rodon, who have been similarly critical of MLB’s foreign substance crusade. “I had a really tough time gripping the baseball tonight, especially early when it was windy.”
One of the most vocal players this week has been Cole’s former Pittsburgh teammate, Tyler Glasnow (now of the Rays), who thinks pitching without rosin and sunscreen for added grip was at least partially responsible for his elbow injury Monday against the White Sox.
“Please just talk to us, please just work with us,” Cole pleaded, acknowledging that he and Glasnow have spoken on the phone. “I know you have the hammer here, but we’ve been living in a gray area for so long. I would just hate to see players get hurt. I would hate to see balls start flying at people’s heads.”
MLB announced earlier this week that beginning Monday (June 21st), players found using illegal foreign substances will be subject to automatic ejection and a 10-day suspension with pay. Many have chided MLB for its hypocrisy on foreign substances, conveniently changing course after years of turning a blind eye now that it’s affecting the game’s aesthetic, with offense all but disappearing amid a new golden age of pitching. But regardless of how we arrived here, Cole and others will have to adjust, conforming to the new standards outlined in a memo distributed to teams earlier this week.