A former Los Angeles Angels employee has reportedly claimed that he gave Yankees ace Gerrit Cole a "sticky" substance for the purpose of doctoring the ball, as part of an ongoing lawsuit filed in California.
Former Angels clubhouse manager Bubba Harkins is suing the team for what he says was being made the "public scapegoat" for MLB's supposed crackdown last year on pitchers using banned substances.
In new documents filed on Thursday as part of the lawsuit initiated in August, Harkins' attorneys provided a copy of a January 2019 text message allegedly sent by Cole in which the pitcher appears to ask Harkins for help with a "sticky situation."
“Hey Bubba, it’s Gerrit Cole, I was wondering if you could help me out with this sticky situation,” the pitcher wrote, adding a wink emoji. “We don’t see you until May, but we have some road games in April that are in cold weather places. The stuff I had last year seizes up when it gets cold.”
Cole, now with the Yankees after signing the largest contract in league history last offseason, was a member of the Houston Astros when he apparently sent the texts to Harkins.
Harkins, 55, filed the defamation lawsuit after he was terminated in March, which came only days after the league said it would no longer look the other way on pitchers using tar, resin and other sticky substances for the purpose of gaining a competitive advantage.
The Angels and MLB moved to dismiss Harkins' case in November, and Harkins filed his opposition to the dismissal on Thursday, the Times reported, which is when the apparent text from Cole was submitted as evidence.
Officially Harkins was fired for providing his substance to visiting players, but in documents filed on Thursday, he implicated a handful of additional Angels pitchers, according to the Times, “including Troy Percival, Brendan Donnelly, Tyler Chatwood, Kevin Jepsen and, most recently, Cam Bedrosian, Keynan Middleton, Yusmeiro Petit, Luke Bard, Matt Andriese, Dylan Peters, Jose Suarez and Dylan Bundy.”
Percival, the former star closer, admitted last fall that Harkins had taught him how to make the concoction, which consisted mostly of pine tar and resin. Percival said it helped him grip the ball in the dry conditions of Arizona, where the Angels hold spring training.
Harkins had previously claimed star pitchers including Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber and Adam Wainwright had used the mixture.
Harkins' lawyers are seeking up to $4M in damages because they say his reputation has been "trashed" by the episode while MLB and its team clubs sought to protect their own interests.
The league was especially keen to find a "one-man scapegoat" in the wake of the Astros' damaging sign-stealing scandal, the lawyers said, according to the report.