BOSTON (CBS) — Look out, world, because we may have another “-gate” on our hands. This one will be known as Pine Targate.
Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda started for the Yankees against the Red Sox on Thursday night, and he struck out seven batters en route to earning his first MLB win since July 2011. Yet he did so under somewhat suspicious circumstances, as the television broadcast cameras clearly showed a dark substance caked on his throwing hand, on the lower part of his palm near the wrist. Pineda also had a slick spot on his left wrist, which the broadcast cameras showed as well.
The NESN broadcast crew of Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo pointed out the slick spots frequently, and Twitter was naturally abuzz with cries from both sides of the rivalry.
The Red Sox, however, did not protest at any point in the game, and after taking a loss in the Bronx, nobody seemed to care much about what Pineda may have had on his body.
“Well in the cold weather, you’re looking to get a grip. I can’t say it’s uncommon that guys would look to create a little bit of a grip,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “Typically, you’re not trying to be as blatant.”
While the spots were clear on the TV broadcast, players on the field apparently didn’t take notice.
“What happened?” David Ortiz said when asked about it. When told it appeared Pineda had pine tar on his hand, Ortiz said, “Everybody uses pine tar in the league. It’s not a big deal.
“I don’t know, I don’t pay attention to any of that, you know what I’m saying?” Ortiz also said. “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? I think his velocity and his slider was good tonight. That’s all I can tell you.”
“I didn’t see it,” said Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. “I had no idea. He threw a good game, and that was it. I don’t know anything about that.”
“I thought he was great,” Dustin Pedroia said of Pineda, according to the New York Daily News. “I have pine tar on my bat. That’s a non-issue. I thought he was better than us tonight. … I didn’t see it. I thought he had great stuff. His heater was good, his slider, we were a little late on his fastball, and out in front of his off-speed, so he did a great job.”
Crew chief Brian O’Nora said the Red Sox never brought the matter to his attention.
“No one said a word,” O’Nora said, according to the Daily News. “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.”
Of course, the Red Sox had to be careful in such a situation. It was just last year that Dirk Hayhurst pointed out that Clay Buchholz was doctoring baseballs with some type of foreign substance in a game in Toronto. It was later believed to be a combination of sunscreen on his arm and water from his hair, used to gain extra traction on his finger tips.
Hayhurst said at the time that “100 percent of pitchers in baseball have some kind of foreign substance,” but the story nevertheless became national news.
After that instance, John Farrell and the Red Sox fully supported Buchholz, and it’s worth noting that no opponents ever issued a complaint about Buchholz. The only complaints came from the Toronto broadcast.
The issue resurfaced in the World Series, though that time it involved Jon Lester with some sort of substance in his glove during Game 1. MLB ruled that no conclusions could be drawn from video or pictures of Lester’s glove, and that story went away fairly quickly. That issue, however, was raised by a minor league player within the Cardinals organization, which is the closest one of these recent complaints has come from an opposing player.
As for the Pineda “controversy,” it’s unlikely to carry over into any future matchups. The 25-year-old claimed the substance on his hand was simply dirt, not pine tar. He will likely just have to practice some more discretion when applying “dirt” to his pitching hand in the era of high-definition television.
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