New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda faces a suspension after being ejected from last night’s game at the Boston Red Sox for having pine tar on his neck, two weeks after denying he uses the banned substance.
Home plate umpire Gerry Davis ejected Pineda in the second inning after rubbing his index finger over a dark patch on the pitcher’s neck. Davis had gone to the mound to inspect Pineda, 25, at the request of Boston manager John Farrell.
Hitters are allowed to use pine tar on their bat to keep it from slipping out of their hands, but it’s forbidden for pitchers to use the gooey substance. Especially in cooler weather, pitchers have acknowledged using a variety of substances to try to improve their grip on the ball.
“I think there’s an accepted level of some additive used to get a grip,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said in a news conference after Boston’s 5-1 victory. “I felt like in the two starts we’ve had against Pineda, it’s been a little bit above that.”
On April 10 in a 4-1 win against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, television images showed a substance on Pineda’s throwing hand. Pineda told reporters after the game that “I’m not using pine tar. It’s dirt and sweat.”
Major League Baseball rules state that pitchers may not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball or have a foreign substance in their possession.
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Joel Peralta was suspended for eight games in 2012 after getting caught with pine tar in his glove. The loss of Pineda would come as the Yankees already are shorthanded, with starting pitcher Ivan Nova sidelined by elbow pain that may require surgery.
“It was something Michael chose to do after the first inning, he had a hard time gripping the baseball,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters after the game. “It’s a young kid, I don’t think he’s trying to do anything to cheat, he’s trying to go out there to compete.”
Pineda allowed two runs on four hits in the first inning last night. He had gotten two outs in the second inning when Farrell went to the umpires.
“As obvious as this was, I felt like we needed to check it at the time,” Farrell said. “I didn’t see it in the first inning.”
Pineda was traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Yankees in January 2012, then missed the past two seasons while recovering from shoulder surgery.
His record this season fell to 2-2 with the loss, and his earned run average went from 1.00 before the game to 1.83 after the contest.
“I apologize to my team and everybody,” Pineda said after the game. “I learn from this mistake, and this won’t happen again.”
Boston starting pitcher John Lackey (3-2) struck out 11 while allowing one run in eight innings for the win. Koji Uehara struck out the side in the ninth inning.