Yankees’ Gerrit Cole placed in sticky situation with questions about spin rate, MLB crackdown

Gerrit Cole vs. the New York baseball writers is becoming one of MLB’s best rivalries. The Yankees pitcher parried another round of questions from them about sticky substances and spin rates after he beat the Blue Jays in Buffalo on Wednesday.

The first challenge came from ESPN’s Marly Rivera, who asked Cole why his spin rate was down again. Cole stumbled through the first part of his answer, the same way he did last week when Ken Davidoff of the New York Post asked him whether he used Spider Tack.

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“Look, we’re all just trying to play by the rules, play by what the commissioner has handed out going forward,” Cole told Rivera. “Spin rate’s not everything. You can still pitch well if you don’t have a high spin rate.”

Cole’s spin rates fell slightly last week after MLB made it known it would begin cracking down on pitchers using foreign substances (inspections will begin Monday). Wednesday, his four-seam fastball topped out at 2,485 rpm, minimally below his season average of 2,549 rpm, as he limited the Jays to two runs over eight innings in New York’s 3-2 win (per Baseball Savant). 

Next up was Davidoff’s Post colleague Joel Sherman, who asked Cole his opinion of how MLB has handled the midseason rollout of the crackdown. Cole gave a long answer in which he repeated something he said last week: Sticky stuff has been an accepted part of the game for decades.

“The intent, I agree with. Uniformity, I agree with. Probably consensus among all the players, especially everybody that I’ve spoken to, we’re in line with what the league is thinking in terms of that,” Cole said. “Now, again, the customs and practices of the last 20, 30 years in this league are one thing, and then to make a drastic change in the middle of the season is going to be challenging for a lot of people.

“I am a little concerned of injuries, especially after talking to Tyler (Glasnow), and I hope that we can apply some feel to the situation.”

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Glasnow, a former teammate of Cole’s in Pittsburgh, said the threat of an MLB suspension once the crackdown begins caused him to stop using his customary mixture of rosin and sunscreen, the most accepted adhesive in the game. Glasnow said he had to grip the ball tighter and deeper in his hand as a result, which he believes caused a tear in his elbow.

Cole said that baseball needs to pay attention to players on this issue.

“I would encourage the commissioner’s office to continue to talk with us, please, because we’re the ones that throw the ball; they don’t. We’re the experts in this situation and we’re aligned in terms of intent with the commissioner’s office as well,” he said.

He said he would “hate to see players get hurt . . . see balls start flying at people’s heads” as pitchers work without some grip aid. 

“It’s so hard to grip the ball. For Pete’s sake, it’s part of the reason why almost every player on the field has something, regardless if they’re a pitcher or not, to help them control the ball,” he said.

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