Righty knows he 'made a mistake,' and Yanks expect he'll get suspended
By Bryan Hoch
BOSTON -- The Yankees expect that Michael Pineda will have to serve a suspension after the right-hander was ejected from Wednesday's start against the Red Sox at Fenway Park for pitching with pine tar smeared on the right side of his neck.
Official Rule 8.02 states: "The pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball." Pineda admitted that he applied pine tar to himself before the second inning, saying that he was having trouble gripping the ball on a cold evening and did not want to hit any batters.
"I know I made a mistake," Pineda said. "I feel so sad today. It was a really cold night and in the first inning I [didn't] have a really good grip on the ball."
Official Rule: 8.02(a)(2)
The pitcher shall not have expectorate on the ball, either hand or his glove.
(a) The pitcher shall be ejected immediately from the game and shall be suspended automatically. In National Association Leagues, the automatic suspension shall be for 10 games.
(b) If a play follows the violation called by the umpire, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire that he elects to accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batsman, or otherwise, and no other runner is put out before advancing at least one base, the play shall proceed without reference to the violation.
(c) Even though the offense elects to take the play, the violation shall be recognized and the penalties in subsection (a) will still be in effect.
(d) The umpire shall be sole judge on whether any portion of this rule has been violated.
Rules 8.02(a)(2) through 8.02(a)(6) Comment: If a pitcher violates either Rule 8.02(a)(2) or 8.02(a)(3) and, in the judgment of the umpire, the pitcher did not intend, by his act, to alter the characteristics of a pitched ball, then the umpire may, in his discretion, warn the pitcher in lieu of applying the penalty set forth for violations of 8.02(a)(2) through 8.02(a)(6). If the pitcher persists in violating either of those Rules, however, the umpire should then apply the penalty.
Pineda also appeared to have pine tar on his palm during an April 10 start against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, but Boston didn't complain that night because the substance disappeared the inning after Red Sox manager John Farrell was made aware of it.
This time, Farrell spotted the smudge on Pineda's neck quite clearly and brought the issue to the attention of home-plate umpire and crew chief Gerry Davis, interrupting a 1-2 count on Grady Sizemore with two outs in the second inning.
"I could see it from the dugout," Farrell said. "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."
Davis went to the mound, first looking at Pineda's glove and his pitching hand. Davis instructed Pineda to turn around, then pointed and touched the spot on Pineda's neck before ejecting him from the game.
"John Farrell mentioned that he felt he had a foreign substance on his person, and [we] went out to check him and he did," Davis said.
Manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild had multiple discussions with Pineda after the April 10 outing, trying to make Pineda aware that pine tar use is illegal and that he would be risking discipline from the league by continuing to do so.
"We certainly are responsible," general manager Brian Cashman said. "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. He's responsible for his actions, but we failed as an organization for somehow him being in that position."
Girardi said that Pineda's decision to apply the pine tar was unknown to the team, and that he used "poor judgment" on Wednesday. Rothschild said that Pineda might have believed that on a windy, 50-degree night, the ends would have justified the means.
"I'm not sure that he understood the implications, and I think it was more in his mind that he needed to grip the baseball," Rothschild said. "Whatever he had to do, I'm not sure if he thought there'd be an understanding of it, but it's one of those things where I'm not sure he understood what the penalties were -- even though I had told him what could happen. I think in his mind, he needed to grip the baseball."
In the future, Pineda said that he will "go out there and pitch my game. I won't use it anymore."
For any violation, the official rules provide a guideline that "the pitcher shall be ejected immediately from the game and shall be suspended automatically for 10 games," but that applies only to National Association (Minor League) games.
Major League Baseball has latitude to decide the length of a suspension and will review the incident. In 2012, Rays right-hander Joel Peralta was found to have pine tar on his glove and was ejected from a game; Peralta was suspended for eight games by Major League Baseball.
Cashman said that Pineda's blatancy had essentially forced Farrell to bring it to the umpires' attention.
"Listen, I would want our manager to do what John Farrell did," Cashman said. "I would want, on behalf of our fan base and our team, to do the same thing that they did."
After Pineda's ejection, Girardi shoved a remotely-controlled ESPN camera that was stationed on the home-plate side of New York's dugout. The camera had been capturing video of Pineda talking to Rothschild and head athletic trainer Steve Donohue.
"I don't want it down in our tunnel," Girardi said. "That's our private area. It has been clearly stated that that is for the dugout, not for the tunnel, not for conversations and what happens between players and coaches. That was my beef. If I was really going to tear up the camera, I would have torn it up."
Because the umpires did not observe the substance back on April 10, Major League Baseball executive vice president of operations Joe Torre said then that Pineda would not face discipline, though Torre did speak to Cashman about the issue.
Pineda repeatedly claimed then that the substance on his pitching hand was only dirt, which he had applied to his hand because he was sweating too much.
"This is the past. I don't want to talk about it," Pineda said. "I know I made a mistake today. That's it."
Though it is in violation of MLB Rule 8.02, pitchers have been known to use pine tar, spray-on sunscreen and other sticky substances to help with their control.
"When it's cold out and windy, those balls are like cue balls and it makes it really tough," Rothschild said. "Look, he's not doing anything to try to change things and get a hitter out -- scuffing the ball, using Vaseline or anything like that. It was strictly what he said, and that's trying to get a better grip on the baseball."
And the Red Sox have had their own recent history with pitchers and substances on the mound. Clay Buchholz was accused of throwing spitballs in a start against the Blue Jays last May, and during the World Series against the Cardinals, Jon Lester's glove showed a green substance that was said to be resin.
"Most guys I know use some sort of something: rosin, sweat, suntan lotion," Boston catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "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."
Pineda's ejection and expected suspension provide a double hit to the Yankees. New York lost right-hander Ivan Nova to a torn right ulnar collateral ligament earlier this week, likely ending his season, and the Yankees had to use four relievers to soak up the remaining 6 1/3 innings on Wednesday.
"I mean, it's a young kid," Girardi said. "I don't think he's trying to do anything to cheat. I think he's trying to just go out there and compete. It's unfortunate it happened, but we'll deal with it and we'll get through this. It's a little bump in the road and we'll be all right."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.