As Major League Baseball looks to crack down on pitcher-friendly substances, the Minnesota Twins have been one of the league's most vocal teams on the issue. On Wednesday night, they could seek a measure of revenge when they face one of the poster children of the scandal in New York Yankees starter Gerrit Cole.
The right-hander has been caught in the middle of MLB's crackdown on the rule that says no pitcher may use an unnatural substance to alter the ball. On Tuesday, Cole was asked by the media if he's ever used a specific substance known as "Spider Tack" on the mound. After beginning with a long pause, Cole offered a strange response.
"I don't quite know how to answer that, to be honest," Cole began. "There are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players, from the last generation of players to this generation of players, and I think there are some things that are certainly out of bounds in that regard.
"This is important to a lot of people who love the game, including the players in this room, including fans, including teams, so if MLB wants to legislate some more stuff, that's a conversation that we can have. Because ultimately we should all be pulling in the same direction on this."
While Cole has never been reprimanded for any use of foreign substances, he has been thrust into the spotlight due to his increased spin rate, which affects the movement and velocity of a baseball.
After being traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Houston Astros after the 2017 season, Cole experienced a 9.9 percent jump in spin rate on his four-seam fastball and a 6.5 percent increase on his curveball. In 2019, Cole saw an even bigger improvement with his fastball spin rate 16.9 percent higher and his curveball 8.7 higher than his 2017 rates.
There's a chance that Cole figured things out. But there's also a chance that Cole could have learned a thing or two from the Astros' pitching staff. Yes, the same Astros who used garbage cans to cheat their way to a world championship.
In his first start after MLB announced its crackdown, Cole was tagged for five runs over five innings against the Tampa Bay Rays. A start like that is forgieable against the top team in the American League, but Cole's spin rates saw an unusual drop according to Statcast.
That could draw the ire of the Twins, who have been outspoken on the subject. Josh Donaldson revealed on Twitter last month that he has "a catalog" of pitchers using foreign substances and Rocco Baldelli acknowledged that its "a concern" for MLB.
With Cole taking the mound on Wednesday, his performance could be one of the game's biggest storylines.