BOSTON (CBS) – Red Sox catcher David Ross will be a regular guest of 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show, and he made his first appearance Thursday morning after what was an eventful night at Fenway Park.
Yankees starter Michael Pineda was thrown out in the second inning of Wednesday night’s contest for using pine tar after Sox manager John Farrell asked home plate umpire Gerry Davis to investigate the shiny, brown substance on his neck. The right-hander walked off the mound and into the clubhouse without protest after appearing to pull the same stunt less than two weeks ago.
Coming up through the minors as a catcher, Ross never really heard of pitchers using pine tar for grip until he got to the majors. Upon his arrival, though, he quickly learned about it, and how it’s usage is yet another one of those unwritten rules in baseball.
“We saw [the pinetar on Pineda], but it’s kind of one of those unwritten rules. When it’s freezing cold out you give a guy a little bit of leeway in the league. There’s substances all around where you can just get a little bit of grip, but you can’t smear it all over your neck or your forearm. You kinda gotta be a little more discrete than that,” Ross said to open the interview.
On a frigid April night in Boston with a blistering wind, Ross understood why Pineda would use any extra help he could get to grip the baseball.
“As tight as the new baseballs are wound and the laces there’s not a whole lot to grab on to. … That cold weather is just so dry. In the summertime you’ve got a little more moisture, some sweat, humidity and [losing grip] really doesn’t come into play as much. When there’s no humidity in the air, and the wind’s blowing bad and everything’s so cold it’s hard to get a grip on it.”
Ross added, “As hitters, we want them to know where the ball is going.”
However, it wasn’t Pineda’s use of pine tar in and of itself that bothered the Red Sox, it was the application more than anything else.
“Our video guy saw it on TV and some of the guys up in the clubhouse were watching it like, ‘What is that all over his neck? Not again! He’s got pine tar all over his neck!’ We couldn’t believe it. You just can’t be that obvious. It was kind of like a slap in the face. Like, we just played you last week and this happened and you got away with it, and we didn’t say anything because we understand the unwritten rules of baseball. We were just dumbfounded. Like, really? How is he doing that again? We couldn’t believe it.”
Rich tweeted last night that Farrell calling out Pineda would open up a Pandora’s Box of sorts, which Ross admits is a concern. However, Ross applauded Yankees skipper Joe Girardi for not escalating the situation.
“I think that is a concern. But John [Farrell] had no choice. That’s two times in a row. There is kind of that unwritten rule when it’s cold out that you kind of give the guy a little bit of leeway to get some grip on the ball, and I thought it was really professional that Girardi didn’t check our guys because he realized how, you know, not smart it was for Pineda.
“That was more on his pitcher than it was our team trying to be a ticky tack, bush league way of trying to get an edge in a game.”
After discussing rosin, Bullfrog, hair spray, lotion and all the other tools pitchers use to grip the baseball, the conversation shifted to catching, particularly A.J. Pierzynski. It’s a small sample size, but Red Sox pitchers have a winning record with Ross and a losing record with Pierzynski.
WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche hinted on The Baseball Reporters Wednesday night that there’s an organizational concern with Pierzynski and that we may see prospect Christian Vasquez sooner than expected because of it.
Ross dispelled that notion with Toucher and Rich.
“I went through the same [problems] last year when I got over here. It was a different league for me, it’s not for him, but it’s a different division and getting to know these hitters is a little different. It’s such a tough league. And getting to know these pitchers and how they like to pitch is different too. In spring training you’re learning, but then when you get in real competition things change.
“I think it’s just an adjustment period. We haven’t scored a lot of runs either as a team. We’re missing some key pieces as far as runs scored. The first game he caught the Orioles won 2-1, so that stuff can get over-heightened sometimes.”
Ross added that “we’re a tight knit group” and everything that may come up in the locker room gets handled professionally. “We talk like we’re family. … We bring up base running mistakes, throwing mistakes, pitching and catching — everything under the sun we bring it up.”
Listen below for the full interview, including Ross’s take on the struggles of Clay Buchholz and much more: