Gerrit Cole will start for the Yankees tonight, and he hopes the spin rate on his pitches, which dropped quite a bit last week against the Rays, recovers against the Twins. "I attribute it to just not being as good or as sharp as I wanted to be," Cole told reporters via video news conference Tuesday. "Simple as that."
Maybe so. But Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson sounded skeptical about that "simple" answer last week, in light of baseball's crackdown, first in the minors and coming soon to the majors, on pitchers using illegal substances to produce more spin on the ball, and thus make it break more sharply.
"Is it coincidence that Gerrit Cole's spin rate numbers went down [Thursday] after four minor leaguers got suspended for 10 games" for using ultra-sticky substances, Donaldson asked.
He got his answer from Cole — yes, it was — but the former Cy Young runner-up didn't like having to answer the question.
"It doesn't make me happy. I mean, I'm not thrilled about it," Cole said about hearing his name linked to suspicions about rule-breakers. Donaldson in particular, he said, "I kind of thought it was a bit of low-hanging fruit. But he's entitled to his opinion and to voice his opinion."
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said he's glad Donaldson does. Though he hasn't thought much about Donaldson facing Cole so soon after the Twins third baseman spoke up about the leaguewide spike in spin rates, which Donaldson believes has put hitters in an unfair position, Baldelli made it clear he shares Donaldson's concerns, if not his suspicions.
"I support Josh. A lot of the things that Josh is passionate about and talks about, a lot of times they're things that other players may be thinking but don't really have the nerve to bring up. I don't think Josh cares about [that]," Baldelli said. "His first thought is what he thinks is right, not what may upset somebody's feelings. It's hard to argue with a lot of things Josh has said on this issue."
Cole was asked if he has used Spider Tack, a sticky substance that has turned up in clubhouses. He didn't answer specifically.
"I don't quite know how to answer that, to be honest," Cole said. "There are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players, from the last generation of players to this generation of players. And there are some things that are certainly out of bounds in that regard, and I stood pretty firm in terms of that."
Baldelli also made it clear he intends to make sure his players abide by what MLB decides about the substances.
"I use the word 'integrity.' We're all just looking for an even playing field," he said. Baldelli has discussed the crackdown with pitching coaches Wes Johnson and Pete Maki, "and when MLB comes out with their memo, we're going to share word-for-word what's in it and make sure everything is clear as possible."
• The Twins activated Rob Refsnyder from the concussion list and optioned outfielder Gilberto Celestino to Class AAA St. Paul.
• Righthander Juan Minaya, designated for assignment on Friday after allowing a run in 2⅓ innings in Kansas City on Thursday, cleared waivers Tuesday and accepted an outright assignment to St. Paul.
• Nelson Cruz was out of the lineup for the third time in four games because of stiffness in his left knee. "He came in feeling discernibly better [Tuesday]," General Manager Thad Levine said, but after Cruz worked out, the Twins decided to wait at least another day.
• Righthander Jhoan Duran, who has hit 100 miles per hour on the radar gun in his three starts at St. Paul, will continue to pitch in Class AAA as he returns from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the season's first six weeks. But "we're hopeful that he's going to make an impact in the big leagues at some point this season," Levine said. "When that is a little bit yet to be determined."
• Lefthander Lewis Thorpe, who has started three games for the Twins this season, was placed on the injured list at St. Paul after being diagnosed with an impingement in his throwing shoulder.
• Matt Canterino, the Twins' top pitching prospect below Class AAA, has no structural damage in his pitching elbow, the Twins determined. But Canterino, 23, was played on the injured list at Class A Cedar Rapids because of inflammation.