NEW YORK (WFAN) — Former Mets and Yankees pitcher Al Leiter says it’s “not a big deal” that Michael Pineda appeared to have a foreign substance on his pitching hand Thursday night.
That’s because the New York Yankees starter had what looked like pine tar — though Pineda insisted afterward that it was just dirt — on his palm. Major League Baseball rules prohibit pitchers from putting foreign substances on the baseball, even pine tar, which according to Leiter isn’t applied to gain an edge.
“No, what he’s looking for is a grip on the baseball,” Leiter said Friday on WFAN’s “Boomer & Carton” show.
“It’s a stupid rule.”
Images of Pineda’s hand were all over social media after the start of Thursday’s game against the Boston Red Sox. His palm appeared to be washed clean when he came out for the fifth inning.
“I don’t know what the problem is,” Leiter said. “Hitters have pine tar to get a better grip on the bat.”
Pineda was in full control against Boston, taking a two-hitter into the seventh inning. His night ended with four hits, an earned run and seven strikeouts in six innings of work.
Several Boston players said after the 4-1 loss that the substance on Pineda’s hand was a non-issue. Red Sox manager John Farrell would have been in his rights to have the umpiring crew examine Pineda, but he said the dark, shiny smudge was gone by the time he was made aware of it.
Leiter, who now serves as an analyst for the MLB and YES networks, said a pitcher with a slippery grip could be considered “even more dangerous.”
“The reason why they have rosin — you can use water and rosin, it’s sticky — is that you have the ability to have a better grip on the baseball,” Leiter said. “We’re not talking about Vaseline.”
Vaseline has been used in MLB to create an illegal spitball-like effect. Leiter said if it was pine tar, Pineda wouldn’t have been trying to alter the flight of the ball.
“If it’s illegal to have a better grip, then don’t put a rosin bag behind the pitcher’s mound,” Leiter said. “Why is the rosin bag there?”
The two-time All-Star guessed that each team’s pitching staff has three or four players who use something to try to get a better grip on the ball.
Former Mets closer John Franco also joined the “Boomer & Carton” show, and he believes that number is much higher.
“If you go around the league, I would guarantee more than half the pitchers use it,” Franco said. “They’re probably just a little bit more discreet about it.”
Franco, who said he would have pine tar somewhere on his uniform on cool nights in the minors, thought the substance on Pineda’s hand looked like pine tar. And though he agrees it’s not a big deal, he acknowledged Pineda may have gone “a little bit overboard.”
“Usually (pitchers) put it on their wrist or they put it inside their pants,” Franco said. “When they tug on their pants to pick it up, they get a little on their thumb and then they move it around. And it helps you get a grip on your slider and your fastball, and obviously he had a good slider last night.”
“It was so obvious,” he added. “But no one made a big deal about it (with the exception of) the newspapers.”
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