BUFFALO — Gerrit Cole sounded the alarm during a postgame news conference late Wednesday night that was remarkable at times.
In discussing Major League Baseball’s attempt to crack down on the application of foreign substances to the baseball — which, for the moment, means eliminating them entirely starting on Monday, according to a memo released publicly earlier in the week — Cole ended up pleading his case to commissioner Rob Manfred.
"I don’t have a solution but, again, we are aligned in a lot of areas with the commissioner’s office on this," Cole said. "Please just talk to us. Please just work with us. I know you have the hammer here, but we’ve been living in a gray area for so long, I would just hate to see players get hurt, I would hate to see balls start flying at people’s heads. I had a really tough time gripping the baseball tonight, especially early when it was windy. I don’t really care to be inflammatory here, so I’m just going to leave it at that."
Cole (8-3, 2.31 ERA) spoke after allowing four hits in eight innings, including two solo home runs, in the Yankees' 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays on Wednesday night at Sahlen Field.
It was a chilly, windy night, and Cole said of his grip: "I was messing with it all night."
He added, "I mean, it’s hard. It’s so hard to grip the ball."
Cole later said: "For Pete’s sake, it’s part of the reason why almost every player on the field has something, regardless of if they’re a pitcher or not, to help them control the ball."
The righthander wants Manfred, who coincidentally was in Buffalo touring Sahlen Field and the clubhouses before Wednesday’s game, to consult with the players.
"To make a drastic change in the middle of the season is going to be challenging for a lot of people," Cole said. "I am a little concerned of injuries, especially after talking to Tyler [Glasnow]."
Glasnow, the ace of the AL East-leading Rays, was diagnosed this week with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and a flexor strain and blamed the sudden crackdown for the injuries.
"I hope that we can apply some feel to the situation," Cole said of some kind of universally accepted substance that would help pitchers grip the ball. "I would encourage the commissioner's office to continue to talk with us, please, because we're the ones that throw the ball. They don't. And we're the experts in this situation."
Of Glasnow, Cole, a member of the MLBPA’s executive committee, said: "I talked to him privately and I'll keep most of the details of that private. I feel for the guy in that situation. We're all out there trying to compete, and he's working his tail off trying to compete for his team and it's just . . . yeah, man, that's a bummer."
Everyone in uniform for years was fine with pitchers using some kind of concoction — usually a combination of rosin and sunscreen or a bit of pine tar — to aid their grip. But it has gotten out of hand in recent years, and when hitters league-wide started raising heck about it and as offensive output continued to plummet, MLB, always reactive and almost never proactive, was forced to act.
Cole ranks among the MLB leaders in strikeouts (117 in 89 2/3 innings) but — while still more than effective — has not been as electric in the three starts that came after word broke of MLB’s intentions regarding the rule.
Cole struck out a season-low four hitters Wednesday, with his fastball spin rate at 2,303 revolutions per minute, down 210 rpm from his season average entering the night, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
"Spin rate is not everything," he said. "You can still pitch well if you don't have a high spin rate."