HOUSTON — Cleveland pitcher Trevor Bauer ignited a Twitter battle on Tuesday when he insinuated Houston Astros pitchers are using sticky substances to increase their spin rates.
It started when Bauer responded to a tweet that read: "Are Astros doctoring baseball or throwing spit balls. Look at spin rates of (Justin) Verlander, (Gerrit) Cole and (Charlie) Morton, increased dramatically pitching in Astros uniform. They (sic) probably using a substance or like chewing gum like Morton did like postseason."
Bauer's first tweet was simply 36 thinking emojis before he went further in a sarcastic second tweet that read: "If only there was just a really quick way to increase spin rate. Like what if you could trade for a player knowing that you could bump his spin rate a couple hundred rpm overnight...imagine the steals you could get on the trade market! If only that existed."
Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. soon came to the defense of his team with a tweet. It read in part: "Jealousy isn't a good look on you my man. You have great stuff and have worked hard for it, like the rest of us, no need for this."
Bauer responded to McCullers, saying he isn't jealous and that he respects "what you all are doing over there." He then added that: "My gripe is with the hypocrisy of MLB for selectively enforcing rules when it suits them."
McCullers refused to talk about it when asked to follow up before the game. Astros manager A.J. Hinch was quick to share his thoughts about Bauer's tweets.
"Honestly I roll my eyes at it," Hinch said. "But I do think people need to sweep their own front porch and deal with their own situations more than throw allegations around that are unfounded. I don't know if it's a personal vendetta or if he's got a problem with things. I know sometimes Twitter considers itself the police of the world but in this situation it's time to get to baseball."
Houston third baseman Alex Bregman got involved in the spat later Tuesday with a tweet in which he called Bauer the wrong name. He tweeted: "Relax Tyler ... those World Series balls spin a little different."
The Astros entered Tuesday with the lowest ERA in the majors at 2.54. Verlander, Morton and Cole, who all have sub-2.0 ERAs, rank second through fourth in the American League. Bauer is ninth with a 2.45 ERA.
Cole is first in the AL with 61 strikeouts this season, Verlander, who started on Tuesday, ranked third with 48 entering the game. Bauer is sixth with 46 and Morton is right behind him with 45.
Houston lefty Dallas Keuchel was amused.
"I think everybody's trying to gain an edge on everybody," he said. "Whether or not it's using pine tar or cameras or whatever this day and age brings about, all kinds of stuff goes on — there's sign stealing. I think a lot of teams are trying to gain advantages on other teams. I think if pine tar is one of them it has to be widespread, I would say."
The Indians make their only trip to Houston for a three-game series May 18-20.
"We'll have to deal with it again when he comes next week because he's decided to make himself front and center on dealing with baseball curiosities," Hinch said. "But our guys are pretty good. They don't need to be thrown under the bus like that."
New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who finished his playing career with the Astros in 2009, said he didn't think there was anything "fishy" going on with Houston's pitchers before his team met the Astros on Tuesday night.
"I think you also have to give credit where credit's due," he said. "This organization has been really good at taking talented guys and helping them go to another level. In Verlander's case, a guy that was on a Hall of Fame track and pitching OK and then he got here and is reinvigorated and is pitching really well."
"So I don't read much into it other than they're really good at game planning over here, they're really good I think at addressing deficiency or addressing things that guys are doing well," he continued. "And they've done a really good job of getting the most out of all their players."