Sticky stuff or not, take a seat
All eyes were on the Gerrit Cole–Josh Donaldson matchup in Wednesday night’s Yankees-Twins game. Donaldson took aim at Cole when discussing MLB’s ongoing “sticky stuff” scandal on Saturday, insinuating that Cole was among the pitchers benefiting from the use of illegal foreign substances. With the Yankees’ visiting Minnesota this week, Cole didn’t have to wait long to get his revenge on Donaldson.
Yankees TV announcer Michael Kay said on his radio show that if he were Cole, he would let Donaldson know what he thought of the allegations by drilling him with a fastball.
“You wanna talk? Try talking with a broken rib,” Kay said as if he were in a gangster movie.
Cole went the more conventional route and hurt Donaldson in the strike zone. Donaldson was 0-for-3 against Cole (0-for-5 on the night) and struck out twice. After both punchouts, Cole glared Donaldson’s way. It wasn’t the most aggressive staredown you’ll see from a pitcher and Cole didn’t even say anything as Donaldson walked off. Cole’s expression read mostly like he was annoyed with him. But still, especially after the second K, it was clear Cole was taking an extra beat to gloat.
Cole appeared amped up to take the mound for the first time since Donaldson’s accusations. His fastball averaged 98.2 mph over his six innings of work, nearly a full tick higher than his season average of 97.3. He hit triple digits four times, the same number of 100-mph pitches he had thrown all season. Two of those pitches (100.2 mph and 100.4 mph) were to Donaldson.
But what everyone wants to know about is Cole’s spin rate. Was there anything different about the substance that was or wasn’t on his fingers in response to Donaldson’s accusations? The disappointing answer is it’s not clear. Donaldson pointed to Cole’s diminished average fastball spin rate in his start last Thursday as potential evidence that he had gotten spooked by the increased attention on sticky stuff and stopped using it. His spin rate on Wednesday was in between what it was in his last start and his season average, so there’s no smoking gun there.
Cole wasn’t keen to bring too much attention to his increased velocity, telling reporters, “sometimes you just bring your best fastball,” but he did later concede that dialing it up against Donaldson was “probably a bit of the moment.”
Donaldson, meanwhile, isn’t taking back what he said.
“When I say something, it’s been thought through before. It’s not just something on a whim,” Donaldson told reporters before the game. “I would say this: With Gerrit Cole, he was the first guy to pitch since the [minor league] suspensions had happened and he was the first guy you could see spin rates going down. Since Gerrit did that—we’re going off an interview that was done four or five days ago—there have been 12 or more guys already whose spin rates have magically dropped in the last week.”
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