Michael Pineda threw with the type of gusto through Thursday he had three years ago when the Yankees traded for him from Seattle. His slider made batters look foolish. His fastball set up off-speed pitches. And he mixed in a cutter and changeup to keep the Boston Red Sox off-balance.
However, on Friday morning, no one seemed to be talking about Pineda’s pitching performance. Instead, it was about the substance on Pineda’s pitching hand. Television stills showed a brown substance on the base of the palm of his hand.
Pineda called it dirt. Others called it pine tar.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he didn’t know anything about it.
The Red Sox players said it didn’t matter.
There are reasons that it doesn’t matter to Boston – or most players asked around the league.
1. No one wants to be the team to point it out. If a manager does, he will set up his own team for the same kind of scrutiny. A manager may know some of his own players do it. Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz was seen last year using sunscreen – under the dome in Toronto – to potentially doctor pitches. Boston manager John Farrell can’t exactly accuse another pitcher of doing something similar when Red Sox pitchers have been seen doing this more than once.
2. It’s happening in baseball whether fans like it or not.
Usually pitchers are a little more inconspicuous about it. The batters know about it, and publically haven’t come out against it.
David Ortiz told reporters on Thursday night: “Everybody uses pine tar in the league. It’s not a big deal. … I don’t pay any attention to it. Did he have a lot of pine tar? I didn’t get to see it. What can I tell you, I don’t know what pine tar does to the baseball – maybe better grip. Better be careful (laughs). But his velocity and his slider was good tonight. That’s all I can tell you. His pitching was good."
3. It protects the hitters. On cold, cool nights where the ball could feel slippery, a pitcher may lose control and hit players unintentionally.
I don’t know if this true, but this is the company line. Players and pitchers asked about it on Thursday night went with this line of reasoning.
Perhaps we need another Mythbusters dedicated to baseball to see if this is actually the case.
These are reasons why players won’t say anything, or throw their colleagues under the bus when it comes to using a foreign substance when pitching – despite it clearly being against the rules. It seems to be one of those unwritten, unspoken rules.
Maybe next time, Pineda should be a little more subtle about it.