The Yankees clubhouse was calm and quiet tonight. The team acknowledged that Michael Pineda broke one of baseball’s written rules by using pine tar to get a better grip on the baseball in the second inning, and the team said that Red Sox manager John Farrell did not break an unwritten rule by pointing out the infraction and getting Pineda ejected from the game.
“(Retaliation) is not anything that’s on our mind,” Brian Cashman said. “Listen, I would want our manager to do what John Farrell did. I would want, on behalf of our fan base and our team, to do the same thing that they did. Obviously this is a terrible situation that we all witnessed and we’re all a part of and we all have ownership to because there was clearly a failure and a breakdown that he wound up walking out of that dugout with something like that. It’s just not a good situation.”
According to the box score, tonight’s game-time temperature was 53 degrees with 24-mph wind. Probably not the easiest conditions for throwing a baseball. Pineda had a rocky first inning, allowing two runs on four hits, and before he went out for the second inning, he applied pine tar to the right side of his neck. Pineda admitted as much. He said he was having trouble getting a grip in the first inning, and he wanted to do something to fix the problem.
“It’s cold, and I (don’t) want to hit anybody on the team,” Pineda said. “I want to feel good the ball and make a good pitch. … I’m here and I know I make a mistake. I feel so sad today, and I’m here. It was a really cold night, and the in the first inning I (didn’t) have a really good grip on the ball.”
Of course, the problem is, Pineda’s pine tar placement was obvious. And it came less than two weeks after Pineda clearly had a similar substance on the palm of his pitching hand. The Red Sox let it go that time, but faced with the same blatant action tonight, Farrell asked home plate umpire Gerry Davis to investigate.
Girardi said that he felt Pineda left the Red Sox little choice but to take action.
“That’s probably fair to say,” Girardi said. “… If it’s that obvious, with all the attention, I don’t think (it’s surprising that Farrell checked on it).”
The Yankees recognize that Pineda is certainly facing a suspension. Girardi, Cashman and Larry Rothschild each said that the team talked to Pineda after his previous Red Sox start to explain to him that he couldn’t use pine tar in that manner. The team wouldn’t go into specifics about the conversations — did they tell him not to use it, or to not use it in a way that could be seen? — but it’s clear that conversations took place.
“It’s illegal no matter how you do it,” Rothschild said. “Obviously you can tell him whatever you want, but it’s illegal no matter how you do it. You want me to tell him how to cheat better? That’s basically what it is.”
Pineda did not have the pine tar on his neck for the first inning. He said he applied it himself between innings, and Girardi said he didn’t realize anything illegal was happening until Farrell went onto the field to talk to Davis. Cashman said he was sitting in the stands and began getting calls from people watching the game on television. They’d seen the substance and wanted to know what was going on.
“So I got out of the stands, walked in, but by the time I made it from the stands in here (to the clubhouse) it was too late,” Cashman said. “… This is not something that we’re proud to be sitting in, and we’re certainly embarrassed. When he took the field in the second inning, that should never have taken place.”
• For obvious reasons, there was quite a bit of attention on Girardi for twisting a mounted, unmanned ESPN camera so that it could no longer film Pineda as he talked to Rothschild and trainer Steve Donohue in the tunnel leading to the Yankees clubhouse after the ejection. As I understand it, teams have been specifically told that those mounted cameras are allowed only to film the field and the dugout, but the steps and the tunnel are considered private, team-only areas. “If I was really going to tear up the camera, I would have torn it up,” Girardi said. “But I was trying to get it from being in the tunnel.”
• Girardi said he does not expect to fined in any way for forcing the camera not to point that direction. “I think MLB’s going to have a problem with ESPN going into our tunnel,” Girardi said. “I didn’t break the camera, all I did was keep it from going into our tunnel. … If I’m going to get fined for that, I’ll have a real problem with that because I didn’t do anything to hurt the camera.”
• Cashman gave a blunt “yes” when asked if he expects Pineda to be suspended. Baseball’s rule book says it’s an automatic suspension for any pitcher caught with a foreign substance. Joel Peralta was suspended eight games for having pine tar on his glove in 2012. I wonder if Pineda might be suspended a little longer to make sure he misses two starts.
• Girardi indicated that he would be open to changing the rule so that pitchers could use something to get a better grip on cold days. “That’s something I’ll talk (about) with Major League Baseball,” Girardi said. “Obviously you want guys to compete at the highest level and you want safety. It’s something I’ll talk to MLB about.”
• Is Girardi more likely to check on Red Sox pitchers after today’s incident? “If there’s something really obvious, maybe you do it,” Girardi said. “I don’t know what I would do.”
• Pineda was throwing a lot of fastballs in the first inning, which might have been because he couldn’t get a grip for his slider. Rothschild, though, said he wasn’t thrown off by Pineda’s lack of breaking balls because he knew part of Pineda’s game plan going into the game was to throw more changeups. Rothschild expected fewer sliders regardless of the conditions.
• Can’t help wondering if the Yankees might make a move for a fresh pitcher tomorrow. Maybe option Preston Claiborne back to Triple-A after he threw 32 pitches and went two-plus innings tonight? Hard to imagine Claiborne or David Phelps (57 pitches) will be available. Even Matt Thornton pitched more than an inning tonight. “I thought we pitched pretty well out of the bullpen,” Girardi said. “I thought we did a pretty good job. Some pretty good at-bats, obviously John Lackey was tough on us today but we had some opportunities to score. We just didn’t get the hit.
• Lackey had 11 strikeouts through eight innings. The last Red Sox starter to strike out at least 11 against the Yankees was Tim Wakefield, who had 12 strikeouts in a start at Yankee Stadium in 2005.
• The Yankees committed three errors tonight. It was their second three-error game of the year.
• Derek Jeter’s 11-game hitting streak came to an end. He also failed to reach base for the first time in 21 games dating back to September 2 of last year.
• Final word to Girardi: “I’m not going to get mad at (Pineda). The kid’s doing the best he can, he’s trying to compete, and that’s what he’s trying to do. I don’t think he’s trying to get an edge on anyone, he’s a young man that’s been through a lot, been through a lot of rehab and has worked his tail end to get off to this start and he made an error in judgment. It’s something we have to deal with. There are other things that are going to come up in the course of the year that we’ll find a way to get through it.’’
Associated Press photos