The New York Yankees opened a four game series against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday evening. As usual, the rivals could not escape even a single game without creating a story line for baseball fans to discuss. Following a 4-1 Yankee victory, Michael Pineda had to face questions about whether to not he had an illegal substance on his pitching hand.
Pineda matched up against Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, with the pair combining for 12 innings, 13 strikeouts, and only three earned runs. Buchholz looked good, but the Yankees scored two runs in the fourth inning on four straight ground balls. He also surrendered a home run to Dean Anna in the sixth inning.
Overshadowing Pineda’s performance, in which he once again exhibited great control with only a pair of walks surrendered, was a camera shot showing a dark substance on the palm of his pitching hand. Red Sox manager John Farrell said that he was made aware of what looked like pine tar on Pineda’s hand sometime before the fifth inning. When he tried to look for it the substance had been cleared away, so he did not bother attempting to talk to the umpires about it.
When questioned, Pineda stated that it was just dirt and sweat on his hands. Major League Baseball does not allow any substance to be on a pitcher’s hand aside from rosin, a white, chalky substance that is kept on the pitcher’s mound. Like rosin, pine tar is typically made from pine trees and is used to enhance grip. However, pine tar is not allowed to be on a pitcher’s hand and can result in ejection and suspension.
Many of the Red Sox batters were also asked about it. David Ortiz mentioned that he did not notice anything, but that it would not have mattered to him anyway. Backup catcher David Ross stated he would rather a pitcher be able to control a ball for safety reasons. Buchholz, who last year had a similar accusation made of him, said that it was better for a pitcher to be able to get a grip on the ball in cold conditions than possibly injure an opponent with a wild throw.
The Red Sox as a whole seemed to lean in the direction of Pineda simply having a good night. They made no excuses for their lack of offense against the Yankees. In the days of HD television and with the amount of time a pitcher spends at the very center of the baseball diamond, it is nearly impossible for them to get away with anything. As several of their players said, even if it was pine tar on Pineda’s hand that was not a worry to them.
Back when Gaylord Perry was doing anything he could to doctor up baseballs in the 1960’s and 1970’s, one could see the real effects of an altered baseball. Vaseline, sunscreen, or any other lubricant could be used to allow the ball to slide out of a pitcher’s hand. The result is a ball with reduced spin, acting on the same premise a knuckleball does, only presumably thrown much harder. Unlike most other banned materials, pine tar will not cause a ball to spin awkwardly or break sharper, so it seems to be fair game–provided the pitcher is not caught by an umpire.
The game was also Jacoby Ellsbury’s first game against his former club. He went 1/4 with a run batted in, and has now reached base safely in all but one start. Derek Jeter also continued his strong start. After seeing Shawn Kelley get ripped by the Baltimore Orioles in his last appearance, David Phelps got the save with 2.1 perfect innings. The Yankees’ closer situation remains in flux while David Robertson is out.
Commentary by Brian Moore
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering New York Baseball