New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole didn’t do anything to dispel the notion that he might be among the pitchers who have been using foreign substances on the mound.

As Major League Baseball gets ready to crack down on this type of cheating, Cole passed up the chance to assert that he’s never used any of the “sticky stuff” that’s been pervasive in the sport.

“I don’t...I don’t know if...I don’t quite know how to answer that, to be honest,” a flummoxed Cole told reporters Tuesday when asked if he’s ever used Spider Tack, a popular sticky paste that helps pitchers improve their spin-rate.

“There are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players, from the last generation of players to this generation of players, and I think there are some things that are certainly out of bounds in that regard.”

 

 

 

While it’s become an open secret that pitchers around the league have been putting various substances on the baseball to enhance their performance, Cole has been called out specifically by other players. 

Minnesota Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson suggested that there was a link between Cole’s decreased spin-rate in his last start and four minor-league pitchers being suspended for using foreign substances. One month into the 2018 season, then-Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer implied that the Houston Astros’ staff was doctoring baseballs. 

Cole was traded to Houston in 2018. The spin-rate on his pitches dramatically increased and he became arguably the best pitcher in the American League. 

As a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2013-2017, Cole had a 3.50 ERA with 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings. Cole went from an above-average pitcher to a Hall-of-Fame level player in the AL, posting a 2.65 ERA with 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

“I understand this topic is important to everybody that cares about the game. In regards to Josh, I kind of felt like it was a bit of a low-hanging fruit, but he's entitled to his opinion and to voice his opinion, so I just have other things that I need to keep my focus on,” Cole said.

Pitching numbers across MLB have improved over the last few years, and hitting appears to be harder than ever. Six no-hitters have already been recorded in 2021. The league batting average is down to .237, tied for the lowest of all time.

Cole is 6-3 with a 2.26 ERA in 12 starts this season. The 30-year-old has been one of the few bright spots for the Yankees, who trail both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. Cole is in the second season of a record nine-year, $324 million contract.

There are probably several factors for the poor hitting numbers, and MLB is looking for ways to bring offense back into the game. One of those is by telling umpires to enforce its ban on pitchers using foreign substances, which is expected to happen in about a week.

“This is important to a lot of people that love the game,’’ Cole said. “If MLB wants to legislate some more stuff, that’s a conversation that we can have because ultimately, we should all be pulling in the same direction on this.’’

Gerrit Cole Yankees Gerrit Cole #45 of the New York Yankees in action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on September 16, 2020 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 13-2. Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images