TAMPA — With MLB set to crack down on the use of foreign substances on balls by pitchers this season, Gerrit Cole said he’s “not too concerned” about the change.
The league has notified teams it will begin using its Statcast data to analyze increases in spin rate — and they will target pitchers suspected of doctoring baseballs.
While mostly ignored in the past because both pitchers and hitters saw the value in pitchers being able to have better control, the subject has become more controversial, as velocity increases and a rise in the amount of breaking pitches thrown has caused strikeout rates to soar.
Cole was briefly in the headlines this offseason when he and his former Astros teammate, Justin Verlander, were named in a defamation lawsuit by a fired Angels clubhouse manager, Bubba Harkins.
The case, since dismissed, claimed Harkins was scapegoated for supplying a ball-doctoring concoction to pitchers.
In the suit, Cole was alleged to have sent a text on Jan. 17, 2019 that read, “Hey Bubba, it’s Gerrit Cole, I was wondering if you could help me out with this sticky situation. 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.”
The right-hander declined to go into details on the subject, saying there was “probably not a whole lot of good coming from diving into that. I probably should leave it alone.”
Aaron Boone said he also wasn’t worried the policy would impact his ace, who was excellent in his final tuneup before Opening Day, pitching 5 ²/₃ scoreless innings against the Orioles at Steinbrenner Field, giving up just two hits, no walks and fanning five, with Gary Sanchez behind the plate.
Boone is hopeful that with the league trying to get more consistency from the baseballs it uses, the substance issue will be resolved.
“I think they’re down the road a little bit on getting to the point where they have something that just goes on the ball as a rule — and how they make the ball — to making it where that’s gonna be all you need,’’ Boone said. “I think the biggest thing is getting to the point where we get a universal ball everyone can live with and then eliminate anything.”
Boone said the Yankees were still in a waiting game with three veterans in camp on minor league deals with various forms of opt-outs: Jay Bruce, Derek Dietrich and Jhoulys Chacin.
“Nothing’s been decided yet,’’ Boone said. “We’re still working through that as the clock ticks.”
Bruce has elected to stay away from the Yankees while the situation sorts itself out, which should be by Saturday at the latest. Dietrich is still with the team, but opted not to play Friday, since he is in a similar situation to Bruce, with a roster decision coming Saturday. Chacin is scheduled to start Saturday.
Justin Wilson has not been cleared to resume throwing after being shut down due to left shoulder tightness.
“I know he’s champing at the bit to throw and is feeling good, but we’ll see when we start a progression with him,’’ Boone said.
Adam Warren, who had been sidelined with shoulder soreness in his comeback from Tommy John surgery, resumed throwing earlier this week and is “doing well,’’ Boone said.
The Yankees held a moment of silence for Dr. Bobby Brown prior to Friday’s game. Brown, a member of five Yankees championship teams, who went on to become a successful cardiologist as well as president of baseball’s American League, died Thursday at 96. … Garrett Whitlock, taken by the Red Sox in the Rule 5 draft, will open the season in the majors. The 24-year-old right-hander, an 18th-round pick by the Yankees in 2017, spent 2019 with Double-A Trenton before undergoing Tommy John surgery.