Yankees starter Michael Pineda has drawn the ire of Major League Baseball fans and the media who question whether or not he used a foreign substance on his pitching hand Thursday night.
In his second start of the season, the 25-year-old Dominican Republic native went six innings and didn’t allow a hit until the fifth in New York’s 4-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox. Pineda fanned seven Red Sox and allowed one run, a no-out home run to rightfielder Daniel Nava in the top of the seventh, before he was pulled.
However, a brown, sticky substance was highly visible on the heel of Pineda’s pitching hand, and many have said they believed he used pine tar during his stellar performance.
Red Sox announcers Don Orillo and Jerry Remy referenced the substance during their telecast, and fans also took to Twitter to express their disbelief during the game.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) April 11, 2014
According to SI.com, the MLB rule book states that the use of a foreign substance during a game merits an immediate ejection and a suspension.
Pineda told reporters after the game that the substance in question was a mixture of sweat and dirt.
Whatever was on Pineda’s hand was gone when he took the mound in the fifth, and afterward he did give up three hits including the home run to Nava.
Red Sox manager John Farrell told the Boston Herald that he wasn’t made aware of the issue until the fourth inning.
“Well, in the cold weather you’re trying to get a grip," Farrell said. "I can’t say it’s uncommon that guys would look to create a little bit of a grip. Typically you’re not trying to be as blatant.”
Boston slugger and last year’s World Series MVP David Ortiz didn’t appear at all surprised at Pineda’s alleged use of pine tar and said its use is apparently rampant in the majors.
"Everybody uses pine tar in the league. It’s not a big deal. I didn’t get to see it, but what can I tell you, I don’t know what pine tar does to a baseball. Maybe a better grip?” Ortiz said. “Better be careful. I think his velocity and his slider were good tonight, all I can tell you. His pitches were good."
Shortstop Dustin Pedroia also brushed aside any talk that pine tar gave Pineda any sort of advantage against the Red Sox typically potent lineup.
“I have pine tar on my bat. That’s a non-issue,” Pedroia said. “He was better than us tonight. That’s baseball. We’ll try to come out and score some runs tomorrow."
Whether it gives a pitcher an advantage is evidently still up for debate among players, but the use of pine tar has been an issue for decades in baseball, with former L.A. Dodgers reliever Jay Howell one of the more famous examples.
During Game Three of the 1988 National League Championship Series, Howell was ejected after pine tar was discovered on his glove. L.A. would go on to lose that game but win the series despite the absence of their suspended closer.
Video of Pineda’s incident is below.