Exclusive: MLB pitchers reveal truth about using foreign substances
APR 24, 2014 1:33p ET
With pine-tar loving Michael Pineda making headlines -- and getting suspended for 10 games -- for lathering up his neck and getting ejected from the Yankees' game against the Red Sox Wednesday night, there's been a lot of talk that "everyone does it" when it comes to pitchers using foreign substances to get a better grip on the baseball.
To find out how accurate this assumption is, I reached out to several major-league pitchers and asked — all under the condition of anonymity — if they use a substance, what they use and where they use it.
Three pitchers told me that they never use any substances, although one said he experimented years ago and put it on the inside of his belt.
“One pitcher said he uses 'a little pine tar on my wrist. Rubbed in enough where you can't see it. Still has tack.'”
One pitcher said he uses "a little pine tar on my wrist. Rubbed in enough where you can't see it. Still has tack."
Another responded, "Sunscreen and rosin on my arm. Same as about 90 percent of the league."
Right on cue, another pitcher said, "Of course, sunscreen and rosin. Both forearms. It's for control. It's not scuffing the ball or cutting it to create movement. Most guys who do it, use it for precision."
A couple of pitchers provided detailed explanations on why they use foreign substances.
"Most guys do," one pitcher said. "The balls are so slick and after they sit in the ball boy's bag, they get a powdery film on them from the mud they use to rub them up. It trickles down from the ones on top and the balls we get late in games sometimes are real slick."
Another hurler added that he would not answer my questions, "because unless I never need to use anything ever again, I need hiding spots. I refuse to out myself or anyone else on grip enhancement."
He later added, "Sometimes I need to (use a substance), sometimes I don't. Depends on weather and location and how well the balls are rubbed up. Sometimes they are great and sometimes they are terrible. Cold weather bad balls are the worst. Medium weather is great for baseballs. No need for a substance. Some guys use sugared chewing gum to have sticky spit and lick their fingers. Other guys just don't want to sweat and use deodorant on their arms."
More support for using a substance to get a better grip came from yet another major leaguer, who shared his history.
“It's for control. It's not scuffing the ball or cutting it to create movement. Most guys who do it, use it for precision.”
"A few years into my career was the first time I had experimented with sunscreen and rosin. It's a really good substance to use because you can control exactly how sticky you want it to be as well as the amount that you apply from the area to your throwing hand/fingers. I would apply sunscreen out of the spray can up and down the inside of my forearm and then pat the rosin bag across the same area to create the stickiness. Later, I ended up transitioning to using pine tar to a very small area (maybe about the size of a quarter) on the inside of my glove. This is a much more discreet technique than having it physically on your body. Whether you use sunscreen/rosin or pine tar, the amount that you apply never needs to be very substantial because generally you apply it to the fingertips of your thumb, pointer, and middle finger ... hence supporting the argument that using any kind of substance is never to try and cheat but merely to have grip and control of the baseball. You can ask nine out of 10 pitchers in the league, we all think that us using pine tar or sunscreen/rosin is the same as hitters trying to use it to have grip of their bats."
One thing became clear very quickly after talking to many of the pitchers: They were dumbfounded by Pineda's boldness and stupidity on Wednesday night.