In his last start, Michael Pineda led the New York Yankees to a 4-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox with a strong pitching performance. The 25 year old went six innings, allowing one run on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. However, the biggest story from the game was not Pineda’s outing. Rather, it was how he may have bent the rules to achieve such outstanding results.
In the third inning, cameras caught a glimpse of what appeared to be pine tar on Pineda’s right hand, in violation of MLB’s rule which prohibits the use of foreign substances on the ball. Whether it was pine tar or dirt, as Pineda claimed it to be after the game, by the fifth inning, the substance had been washed off. Thus, Red Sox manager John Farrell did not appeal, and umpires were not required to take any action.
After the game, Red Sox hitters stated they had no issues with Pineda’s performance, that they didn’t see him doctor the ball, and even if he did use pine tar, it’s not that big of a deal. Some even claimed that all big league pitchers use pine tar, among other substances, to get a better grip on the ball, particularly early on in the season when the weather is cold. Still, many fans and media members claimed Pineda’s performance was tainted and that he should have been ejected from the game.
The MLB plans to discuss the incident with the Yankees, though a suspension for Pineda is not expected. According to Brandon Kuty of NJ.com, league spokesman Pat Courtney stated, “The umpires did not observe an application of a foreign substance during the game and the issue was not raised by the Red Sox. Given those circumstances, there are no plans to issue a suspension, but we intend to talk to the Yankees regarding what occurred.”
In other words, the MLB is saving face by addressing the issue. They aren’t just going to sweep it under the rug and ignore it, but they’re also not going to suspend Pineda or fine the Yankees for using a substance that most pitchers use, even though he technically broke the rules.
Whether it’s fair or not, Pineda is by no means the first pitcher to get caught on camera with a mystery substance on his hand or glove. More importantly, nothing came of those previous instances (e.g. Kenny Rogers in the 2006 World Series, Jon Lester in the 2013 World Series). This considered, along with the fact that the Red Sox didn’t protest during the game, it would be unfair to make an example of Pineda.