Red Sox players talk around controversy surrounding Michael Pineda's pitching hand

Rob Bradford
April 10, 2014 - 7:32 pm

NEW YORK -- The Red Sox may have lost 4-1 to the Yankees Thursday night -- continuing their early-season offensive struggles -- but that's not what dominated the clubhouse questioning following the game. On most everybody's mind postgame were thoughts regarding the substance (thought to be pine tar) on the pitching hand of Yankees starter Michael Pineda. Pineda explained after his six-inning, one-run outing that the substance was dirt, claiming he doesn't use pine tar. But images of the pitching hand through the first four innings makes the pitcher's explanation hard to believe. ("€œWas he pitching or hitting?" asked one Red Sox player after seeing a screen shot.) Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he didn't notice anything on his pitcher's hand, commenting after his team's win, "I really don't have anything to say on the subject." Crew chief Brian O'€™Nora told a pool reporter that the issue was never brought to the umpires' attention, saying, "I can'€™t comment on it because we'€™re on the field, and the Red Sox didn't bring it to our attention, so there'€™s nothing we can do about it. If they bring it to our attention then you've got to do something, but they didn't bring it to our attention." According to Red Sox manager John Farrell, the reason he never alerted the umpires was because by the time the coaching staff was made aware of the issue, the substance had left the base of Pineda's right hand. "I became aware of it in the fourth inning through the video that some had seen. And then when he came back out for the fifth inning, it looked, based on what was told to me where it was located, it looked like the palm of his right hand was clean," Farrell said. "That's the extent of it."€ While it is understood that many pitchers use some level of pine tar for a better grip, there was some private grumbling in the Red Sox clubhouse that the Yankees pitcher might have taken it to an extreme. Rule 8.02 of in the Major League Rulebook states: "The pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball." If found guilty of the transgression, the accused pitcher is supposed to be ejected and be handed a 10-game suspension. "It's in the rules, right? So I guess whoever made that rule thinks it's wrong," said Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes of pitchers using pine tar. When then asked if such actions upset hitters, the outfielder responded, "Sure. Any time you'€™re breaking rules. I've faced pitchers when they'€™re in the windup they step back and they step ahead of the rubber. Or when they're on the first base side and they'€™re off the rubber. Rules are rules. You can'€™t use pine tar. Otherwise they all would, I'€™ll tell you that. If a pitcher could use pine tar I guarantee they would have a pine tar rag in their back pocket. I'€™m not saying he did. I don'€™t know what that was, but if it's against the rules ..." Most Red Sox players publicly downplayed the issue, with many saying they didn't even notice the discoloration. "I don'€™t know, I don'€™t pay attention to it, it seems like -- they show him with pine tar or something, he got a lot of pine tar? I didn't get to see it but what can I tell you, I don'€™t know what pine tar does to a baseball,"€ said DH David Ortiz. "Maybe a better grip? Better be careful. I think his velocity and his slider were good tonight, all I can tell you. His pitches were good." "I don'€™t think about that," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. '€œThey have a difficult job. Pitching is pretty tough. I play second base I don'€™t try to pitch. Maybe you could ask one of our pitchers or something." He then added, '€œNo, I didn't see it." "€œI have no idea. I didn't see it, so I don't know,"€ catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "He pitched good, and that's it. I don't know anything about that stuff." Some other Red Sox players echoed Ortiz'€™s sentiments, suggesting getting a better grip might not be such a bad thing. "I'€™m kind of on the fence with that where I would rather the guy know where the ball is going and have a good grip, for me, personally,"€ said backup catcher David Ross. "€œAs long as I've played there'€™s guys always trying to make sure they've got a grip when there is cold weather, early on. Maybe it'€™s cheating, but I don'€™t really look at it that way. Some guys might, but not me, personally." It was an opinion shared by Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, who came under fire last season for allegedly using a foreign substance for better grips on the baseball. "Especially cold, windy nights, it's tough to get a grip on a baseball," Buchholz said. "I had that instance last year in Toronto about having stuff all over my body. You can use resin, water, the whole sunscreen stuff, whatever. It's either have a grip on a baseball and semi-know where it's going or don't have a grip at all and get somebody hurt. How hard he was throwing early in the game, nobody wants to get hit by that, especially up around the head, so I don't think there'd be any organization that would want to do anything about it." He added, "If you're scuffing the ball, that's one thing, but if you're actually creating more control by throwing it where you want to, that's the game of baseball. A pitcher is supposed to throw it where they want to, and hitters react and hit it. If it's giving you any kind of edge, as long as I've been around, I've never seen any kind of sticky substance give anybody an edge. If it gives him an edge, that's one thing, but if not ... "