Cole responds to remark about his spin rate

June 9th, 2021

responded to recent remarks from the Twins’ Josh Donaldson, who publicly questioned if the Yankees’ ace has used sticky substances to improve the grip of his pitches and increase his spin rate.

Donaldson made the comments last week after four Minor Leaguers received 10-game suspensions amid a crackdown on hurlers gaining what has been deemed to be an unfair edge. Speaking with reporters on Friday, Donaldson noted that Cole’s spin rate dipped in his most recent start, wondering aloud if that was a coincidence.

“I was made aware of it this week,” Cole said on Tuesday as the Yankees opened a three-game series at Target Field. “Obviously, it’s undesirable. But I understand that this topic is important to everybody that cares about the game. In regards to Josh specifically, I felt like it was a bit of low-hanging fruit, but he’s entitled to voice his opinion. I just have other things that I need to keep my focus on.”

In Cole’s June 3 start against the Rays, when he allowed five runs over five innings, his spin rate dipped on four primary pitches: by 125 rotations per minute on his four-seam fastball, 78 RPMs on his curveball, 77 RPMs on his changeup and 48 RPMs on his slider, according to Baseball Savant.

Cole, who will start against Donaldson and the Twins on Wednesday, attributed the difference to mechanical flaws.

“I alluded to a little bit of that after the game in terms of getting underneath the ball,” Cole said. “I think we’ve seen a trend in the last few games, to be quite honest, where I’m just not quite bringing out my best delivery.”

Asked specifically if he has used Spider Tack -- a substance that rose to prominence in strongmen competitions and has come under scrutiny in baseball circles -- Cole paused before replying: “I don’t quite know how to answer that, to be honest. I mean, there are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players, from the last generation of players to this generation of players. I think there are some things that are certainly out of bounds in that regard, and I’ve stood pretty firm in terms of that.”

Manager Aaron Boone said that he has never seen Spider Tack in the Yankees’ clubhouse. Boone said that pitchers using substances to gain an edge has been present in baseball long before his playing days -- he mentioned Hall of Famer and noted spitballer Gaylord Perry -- but said that “there are things out there that have probably taken this way too far.”

“We’ve taken a position as a front office, managers, coaches and staff as having no part of it,” Boone said. “We’re not in the position to go try and find guys things or encouraging different things. It’s something we’ve addressed in our room as far as, hey, this stuff is common, and if we’re doing anything that is beyond the pale or below board, we need to clean it up. We’ve kind of talked to that as a group.”

As a member of the Major League Baseball Players Association’s executive council, Cole noted that he is open to facilitating communication about any topic involving the sport.

“If MLB wants to talk about legislating those customs and practices, that’s certainly a conversation we can have,” Cole said. “Ultimately, we should all be pulling in the same direction on this.”

MLB is poised to implement firmer guidelines on enforcement of foreign-substance use by pitchers, with new parameters expected later this month.

Cole pitched to a 5-1 record with a 1.37 ERA through his first eight starts, registering 78 strikeouts against three walks in 52 2/3 innings. Since May 17, he is 1-2 with a 4.30 ERA, with 26 strikeouts against eight walks in 23 innings. Cole said that he intends to keep his focus on the task at hand on Wednesday.

“Respectfully, I just have more things on my plate,” Cole said. “It’s very important for us to win games right now and fulfill my job. What other people say, they’re certainly allowed to say whatever they can. It doesn’t make me happy. I mean, I’m not thrilled about it. As far as that, I just have to kind of leave it where it is.”

He said it
“We’re only 60 games in. We’ve got [102] games more. Just because it’s been a tough couple of weeks doesn’t mean it’s going to be the identity of our season. I think the guys in that room are the most talented guys I’ve ever been around. We’ve just got to continue to keep working and the tides are going to turn.” -- shortstop Tyler Wade

Bombers bits
• Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin is getting closer to returning to his on-field duties, according to Boone. Nevin had the IV port removed from his left arm and is traveling with the team.

• Boone said that he placed a call to Major League Baseball seeking clarification regarding the ejections in Sunday’s game against the Red Sox, specifically in the case of bench coach Carlos Mendoza.

This date in Yankees history
June 8, 1969: “Mickey Mantle Day” was celebrated at Yankee Stadium as The Mick’s No. 7 jersey was retired and a Monument Park plaque was unveiled in his honor. The Yankees swept a doubleheader against the White Sox, winning by scores of 3-1 and 11-2.