BUFFALO, N.Y. — Gerrit Cole called out Major League Baseball in its attempt to regulate foreign substances after struggling to keep a firm hold of the baseball during his start against the Toronto Blue Jays on a cold, windy Wednesday night at Sahlen Field.
“It’s so hard to grip the ball,” a frustrated Cole said after the New York Yankees‘ 3-2 win. “For Pete’s sake, it’s part of the reason why almost every player on the field has had something, regardless if they’re a pitcher or not, to help them control the ball.”
Cole added: “We are aligned in a lot of areas with the commissioner’s office on this. … Please, just talk to us, please just work with us. 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 head. I had a really tough time gripping the baseball tonight, especially early when it was windy. I don’t really care to be inflammatory here, so I am just going to leave it at that.”
This was Cole’s first start since Major League Baseball sent a memorandum detailing enhanced enforcement of Official Baseball Rules 3.01 and 6.02(c) and (d), which prohibit applying foreign substances to baseballs. Those foreign substances are frequently used to doctor baseballs for increased spin rates.
MLB’s research concluded that “foreign substances significantly increase the spin rate and movement of the baseball, providing pitchers who use these substances with an unfair competitive advantage over hitters and pitchers who do not use foreign substances, and results in less action on the field.”
A lower fastball spin rate did not affect Cole’s execution against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night. Despite setting a season high for hits allowed in the first inning with three, Cole allowed only two earned runs, both on solo homers, over eight solid frames.
Cole, who struck out a season-low four batters, threw 104 pitches, 47 of them fastballs. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Cole’s fastballs averaged a spin rate 2,303 revolutions per minute (RPM), down 210 RPM from his season average coming into the game. In his start in Minnesota last Wednesday, Cole’s fastballs averaged a spin rate of 2,515 revolutions per minute.
“We’re all just trying to play by the rules, play by what the commissioner’s handed out going forward,” Cole said. “Spin rate is not everything. You can still pitch well if you don’t have a high spin rate.”
When asked whether he had a chance to discuss the report with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who was at the game, cracking a smile, Cole quipped: “Probably not the right time to have a discussion with Rob before I’m gonna go pitch.”
Abiding by the new rules, Cole struggled with his grip during the contest near Lake Erie, with temperatures hovering in the high 40’s with the wind chill.
“I was messing with [my grip] all night,” he said. “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]. I hope that we can apply some feel to the situation. 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. And we’re the experts in this situation.”
Cole said that he spoke to Glasnow, the Tampa Bay Rays ace who sounded off on MLB’s crackdown after he was diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and a flexor tendon strain.
“I talked to him privately and I’ll keep most of the details of that private,” he said. “I feel for the guy in that situation. We’re all out there trying to compete, and he’s working his tail off trying to compete for his team and it’s just … yeah, man, that’s a bummer.”
Cole agreed with Glasnow’s assessment of understanding MLB’s policing of sticky substances, but both have an issue with it happening midseason because they believe eliminating something that helps pitchers’ grip could lead to an increase in injuries. Cole added that he would like MLB to come up with a substance to help with the grip, besides rosin.
“We’ve heard about a universal substance. I certainly think that’s something to be discussed,” he said. “I read a statement from the commissioner’s office that this isn’t about blaming anybody. I hope that we can remember that as an industry and just keep the lines of communication open in regards to this, between all three parties, umpires, players and the league and move in the right direction going forward.”