Gerrit Cole discusses the use of Spider Tack in baseball

When asked directly on Tuesday if he had used Spider Tack – a sticky paste that can dramatically increase rotation on the courts – while on the mound, the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole stammered a response, citing the grim tradition of pitchers breaking the rules to gain an advantage.

“I’m not quite sure how to answer that, to be honest,” Cole said during a Zoom conference with reporters, after searching for about 15 seconds for an answer. “I mean, there are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players to the latest generation of players to this generation of players. I think there are some things that are definitely off limits in this regard, and I’ve been pretty firm on that, in terms of communication between our peers and so on. “

He added: “It’s important to a lot of people who love the game, including the players, including the fans, including the teams. If MLB wants to legislate on other things, that’s a conversation we can have, because at the end of the day, we should all be pulling in the same direction on this. “

Major League Baseball has desperately tried to curb the surge in strikeouts that has overtaken the sport in recent years. Lately, the league has focused on foreign substances that pitchers stealthily apply to the ball, a practice that has become increasingly common – and effective – with technology that precisely tracks the rotation of their shots.

Spider Tack is marketed to competitive strongmen to improve their grip while carrying Atlas stones, and studies have shown it to be much more useful in increasing spin rates than traditional methods like sunscreen mixed with rosin. All of this is hidden for the pitchers to use. But for years the practice was so prevalent and accepted that most teams largely ignored it.

The issue, however, became a hot topic at owner meetings last week, and MLB plans to formalize enforcement protocols and sanction structures in the coming days. Referees will likely be responsible for checking pitchers’ gloves, caps and uniforms for foreign substances.

The pitchers may already heed the warnings, and Minnesota Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson singled out Cole in a weekend interview with The Athletic. On Cole’s last start, his RPM dropped by 125 RPM on his four-seam fastball and also dropped on his low-speed throws.

“Is it a coincidence that Gerrit Cole’s turnover rate dropped after four Minor Leaguers were suspended for 10 games?” Donaldson said. “Is that possible? I don’t know. Maybe. At the same time, with this situation, they let the guys do it.”

Cole called Donaldson’s comments “fruit at hand,” but said he was entitled to his opinion. Cole, a member of the executive board of the players’ union, said he supports an open dialogue on the issue with other players.

Cole’s four-seam fastball spin rate was 2,164 rpm in 2017, his final season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It jumped to 2,379 rpm in 2018, his first of two seasons with the Houston Astros, and has hovered around 2,500 since 2019.

As for his lower turnover rate last Thursday, when he allowed five hits and five runs in five innings, with seven strikeouts, in a loss to Tampa Bay, Cole said his mechanics were off. , which affected his outing on the ball.

“I attribute it to not being as good or as sharp as I wanted,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

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