Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pineda’s foolishness affects Yankees in many ways

The New York Yankees will lose another member of the starting rotation for potentially two starts as Michael Pineda was ejected in Wednesday night’s 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox for use of pine tar while pitching.

The ejection came less than two weeks since Pineda was seen with pine tar on his palm, in a game against the Red Sox, but he was able to remove it before being questioned by umpires.

MLB Rule 8.02(a)(2) states, “The pitcher shall not have expectorate on the ball, either hand or his glove.” To read the entire rule click here.

While the rulebook says the suspension would be an automatic 10 games (for National Association Leagues), there is precedent that the suspension could be less as Tampa Bay Rays reliever Joel Peralta was suspended eight games for the exact same violation in 2012.

The Yankees will be affected in more ways than one because of Pineda's actions.

Whether it is one start or two, the Yankees are now forced to utilize another starter for at least one turn. Plus, they had to use four relievers last night to get through the game since Pineda was caught in the second inning. It’s also not helpful for Pineda to get out the groove of game action since he was just getting into a rhythm.

While Pineda’s use of pine tar in such a clear fashion was misguided, the consensus among players, including Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, focused on his inability to hide it better rather than the fact that he used it. It is common practice for pitchers to use pine tar to get a better grip. However, most pitchers who use it do a much better job of being discreet about it.

"Most guys I know use some sort of something: rosin, sweat, suntan lotion," Pierzynski said via MLB.com. "Since the beginning of the game, guys have always tried to use something just to get a better grip. It helps your command. As a hitter, I'm not against it.

"I don't want guys up there with the ball slipping out of their fingers throwing it everywhere. You want a guy who has somewhat of an idea of where it's going. It doesn't bother me at all that guys do that. It just bothers me that he can't make it so blatant."

Red Sox manager John Farrell explained his reasoning for even bringing it up, knowing full well some of his pitchers might use pine tar as well.

"I could see it from the dugout," Farrell said via MLB.com. "It was confirmed by a number of camera angles in the ballpark. And given the last time we faced him, I felt like it was a necessity to say something."



It’s unknown if Pineda was noticed by his teammates or the coaching staff applying the pine tar to his neck after allowing two runs in the first inning. Photos from the opening frame did not show anything on his neck and Yankees manager Joe Girardi responded in the negative when asked by the media if the team knew he applied it. Moreover, Girardi and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild had discussions with Pineda after the last incident.

Despite the reality that pine tar is used fairly often, Pineda and Yankees will now be under the microscope for it.

Pineda’s season had been sailing somewhat smoothly after two seasons off a Major League mound. He had allowed just two earned runs in 18 innings before Wednesday’s start. He’ll have to go the rest of the cool season without use of a gripping method many pitchers exploit. Once the weather warms the need for pine tar should lessen, but Pineda will certainly be searched once per game for the foreseeable future.

Further, expect teams to employ some gamesmanship with other Yankees pitchers, who while possibly more astute about hiding it, if caught during an umpire search will face the same repercussions. Essentially, all Yankees pitchers should forget about using pine tar for quite some time.

The Yankees turned to David Phelps once Pineda was ejected and he is the likely member of the staff to fill the void left by the inevitable suspension. The Yankees have already had to move one member of the bullpen into the rotation, Vidal Nuno, to take Ivan Nova’s spot after the latter was diagnosed with a partially torn UCL. Phelps is far from stretched out so the games he would start will involve more use of the bullpen. This is something the Yankees didn't need forced on them.

Pineda’s failure to stay away from the substance, just two starts removed from the last time he was almost caught was foolish, selfish and detrimental to the pitching staff’s fluidity. It can have long term affects beyond the immediacy of his suspension. Hopefully he has learned his lesson and will avoid using the pine tar altogether or at the very least he’ll reach out to a wily veteran for advice on a better way to hide it.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.




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