All eyes will be on New York right-hander Gerrit Cole and Minnesota third baseman Josh Donaldson when the teams meet in the second game of their three-game series on Wednesday night in Minneapolis.
Cole (6-3, 2.26 ERA) is coming off a 9-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday. He tied his season high by allowing five runs in five innings.
But the stat that caught the eyes of a number of baseball observers, including Donaldson as it turns out, was the unusual drop in the spin rate on his pitches, according to Statcast. ESPN reported that MLB has instructed umpires to starting being more “aggressive” in their checks of pitchers for illegal substances. Donaldson hinted to reporters that Cole’s dip in spin rates could be due to a cutback in his use of sticky substances to help spin the ball.
“Is it coincidence that Gerrit Cole’s spin rate numbers went down (Thursday) after four minor leaguers got suspended for 10 games,” Donaldson said. “Is that possible? I don’t know. Maybe.”
Cole, who attributed his lack of spin rate to mechanical flaws, said he was aware of Donaldson’s comments during a Tuesday Zoom session with media members.
“I was made aware of it this week,” Cole said. “Obviously, it’s undesirable. But I understand that this topic is important to everybody that cares about the game. In regards to Josh specifically, I felt like it was a bit of low-hanging fruit, but he’s entitled to voice his opinion. I have other things that I just need to keep my focus on.”
Still, Cole raised more than a few eyebrows when he was asked specifically by a reporter if he had ever used Spider Tack, a sticky substance that can greatly increase the spin on pitches.
After a long pause, Cole replied: “I don’t quite know how to answer that, to be honest. 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 I think there are some things that are certainly out of bounds in that regard.”
Cole has made one career start against the Twins. That came in 2019 while a member of the Houston Astros, and he threw 5 1/3 no-hit innings before allowing a Max Kepler double in the 11-0 victory.
New York snapped a four-game losing streak in Tuesday night’s series opener with an 8-4 victory. Gary Sanchez and Miguel Andujar both homered, and the Yankees finished with 14 hits while improving to 27-11 (including playoffs) all-time at Target Field.
Right-hander Randy Dobnak (1-5, 6.19 ERA) will make his fourth start in a row in place of the injured Kenta Maeda for the Twins. This will be Dobnak’s first regular-season start against New York, but he did pick up the loss in Game 2 of the 2019 American League Division Series against the Yankees when he allowed four runs on six hits over two innings in the 8-2 game.
The Twins committed four errors in Tuesday’s loss, including two in the eighth inning when New York scored twice to build a 5-3 lead.
“Playing fundamental baseball is something we’re going to have to do in order to stay in ballgames, win ballgames,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But I’m not concerned about the particular plays we saw today mainly because of why. We were trying to stay in the ballgame. If we play conservatively on those plays all the time, that’s a challenge in its own right.”
–Field Level Media
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