New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole was among the handful of pitchers who were accused of having a now-fired Los Angeles Angels clubhouse attendant create a special substance to improve the grip on baseballs in order to get an edge on opposing batters.
The Angels fired clubhouse attendant Brian Harkins in March 2020 after MLB told the organization he was supplying the sticky substance to illegally help pitchers. Harkins had been with the Angels for about 40 years before he was dismissed, according to ESPN.
In August, he filed a lawsuit against the Angels and MLB accusing them of unfairly depicting him as the “scapegoat” in an effort to tamp down on pitchers using substances to improve their pitching.
New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole throws to first base during a spring training baseball workout Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
A texted message to Harkins allegedly from Cole submitted to Orange County Superior Court was submitted as evidence Thursday as a rebuttal to the effort from the opposition to dismiss Harkins’ lawsuit, according to ESPN.
“Hey Bubba, it’s Gerrit Cole. I was wondering if you could help me out with this sticky situation [winky face emoji]. We don’t see you until May, but we have some road games in April that are in cold weather places. The stuff I had last year seizes up when it gets cold …,” the message reads.
Harkins was known as Bubba in the clubhouse.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Harkins alleged that MLB has evidence that some of its star pitchers have used foreign substances to get an edge, including Cole, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Harkins reportedly provided the names of former Angels who have used the substance, including Troy Percival, Brendan Donnelly, Kevin Jepsen and Dylan Bundy.
Percival had said he “taught” Harkins how to make the substance by combining pine tar and rosin, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Justin Verlander didn’t play in 2020. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
Harkins argued in the original complaint he was never given proper warning about the substance and he didn’t receive a memo from MLB about the rule barring foreign substances, according to ESPN. Harkins also has former major league players and employees vouching for his reputation. Vince Willet, a former clubhouse attendant, said the mixture was routinely in the Angels’ clubhouse.
MLB and the Angels haven’t commented on the allegations.
Another piece of evidence provided by Harkins mentions Verlander and a phone call the two had. Verlander allegedly noted that MLB started to come down on teams and players who were creating substances to get a better grip and maximize spin rates, according to ESPN.
The notion of using substances to get a better spin rate has been something free-agent pitcher Trevor Bauer has been open about. He wrote about the substances in The Players’ Tribune in February.
“For eight years I’ve been trying to figure out how to increase the spin on my fastball because I’d identified it way back then as such a massive advantage,” the former Cincinnati Reds ace wrote. “I knew that if I could learn to increase it through training and technique, it would be huge. But eight years later, I haven’t found any other way except using foreign substances.”
Bauer added: “When I see a guy go from being a good pitcher for one team and spinning the ball at 2,200 rpm, to spinning the ball at 2,600 or 2,700 in Houston, I know exactly what happened.”
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fourth inning of a spring training baseball game Monday, March 2, 2020, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
He didn’t mention Cole or Verlander by name. The two players were teammates on the Astros in 2019.
The New York Post noted that Cole was asked about Bauer’s assertion that the Astros were better at creating the sticky substance and Cole responded three times, “No.”
The issue of spin rate came up in The Athletic in November. One executive told the outlet that pitchers are going through their own phase to gain an edge on batters who are hitting more home runs than ever. According to the report, most pitchers in the majors are using some kind of “extra-grip substance” to get a better handle on the ball.
“It’s better than steroids,” a player development executive told the outlet.