New York Yankees’ pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected from a game against rival Boston Wednesday after he was caught using pine tar on the baseball. Pineda admitted to the infraction but claims he was not cheating, but rather attempting to ensure he would not hit a batter.
“It was a really cold night and in the first inning I (couldn’t) feel the ball,” Pineda said. “I don’t want to like hit anybody so I decided to use it.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell came out to complain about the shiny blotch on the right side of Pineda’s neck, which was clearly visible to television cameras broadcasting the game.
“I fully respect that on a cold night, you’re trying to get a grip, but when it’s that obvious something has got to be said,” Farrell said.
Pineda was ejected by home plate umpire and crew chief Gerry Davis.
“I think we’re all embarrassed,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “We as a group are embarrassed that this has taken place. I think Michael is embarrassed. It’s just obviously a bad situation, and it clearly forced the opponents’ hand to do something that I’m sure they didn’t want to do, but they had no choice but to do. Obviously, we’ll deal with the ramifications of that now.”
Using a foreign substance on the baseball is a violation of Major League Baseball rule 8.02. According to an MLB spokesman, there is no mandatory suspension for the infraction at the major league level — minor league baseball imposes an automatic 10-day suspension — but both Cashman and manager Joe Girardi said they expected Pineda would be suspended.
“He’s a young kid,” Girardi said of the 25-year-old Pineda. “I don’t think he’s trying to do anything to cheat, I think he’s trying to just go out there and compete. He used bad judgment tonight. He’ll admit to that.”
“I did it by myself,” Pineda said. “Nobody helped me with it.”
Girardi said he never did see the pine tar on Pineda’s neck, and Cashman said he was informed of it by telephone from someone he did not identify who had seen it on TV.
“Hey, I don’t know what’s going on, but something looks suspicious,” Cashman said he was told by the caller. He left his seat in the stands at Fenway and tried to get down to the Yankees clubhouse.
“By the time I made it down from the stands, it was too late,” he said.
Cashman seemed angered by the failure of anyone on the Yankees side to have spotted the pine tar on Pineda before it was seen by the Red Sox, especially in light of allegations that Pineda had pine tar smeared on the palm of his pitching hand the last time he faced the Red Sox, on April 10 at Yankee Stadium.
“We certainly are responsible, and there’s certainly failure on our part as an organization as a whole that he took the field in the second inning with that on his neck,” Cashman said. “He’s responsible for his actions, but we failed as an organization for somehow him being in that position. I don’t know how, none of us know right now, we’re scratching our head right now, how that took place.”
That night, no complaint was lodged by Farrell and no punishment rendered by the umpires, and in fact, several Red Sox shrugged off the incident as common practice by major league pitchers to improve their grip on the baseball.