Josh Donaldson Clarifies Comments on Yankees' Gerrit Cole, Declining Spin Rates

Blake SchusterContributor IJune 10, 2021

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 03: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Minnesota Twins rounds third base on his home run against the Kansas City Royals in the sixth inning at Kauffman Stadium on June 3, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

Minnesota Twins star Josh Donaldson is toning down his criticism off Gerrit Cole's declining spin rate, even if the third baseman isn't backing off his feelings when it comes to pitchers using foreign substances to doctor the ball. 

danhayesmlb @DanHayesMLB

#MNTwins Josh Donaldson on Gerrit Cole: pic.twitter.com/FlSigV8slj

Speaking to reporters ahead of Wednesday's matchup with the Yankees, Donaldson said he didn't intend for the New York ace to become a "leader" in MLB's crusade against sticky substances. Earlier in the week the infielder posited that there was no coincidence between four minor league players getting suspended 10 games for doctoring the ball and Cole's decreasing spin rate. 

That had Cole struggling to explain if he's used a foreign substance on the ball. 

Matthew Roberson @mroberson22

here's gerrit cole's response when asked point blank if he has ever used spider tack, one of the sticky substances baseball is looking to crack down on pic.twitter.com/rKFOksIDoW

Donaldson said there are many pitchers across baseball with declining spin rates lately and wasn't trying to single out the Yankees starter. 

Cole, who has dropped three of his last four starts, saw his spin rate decline by 125 revolutions per minute on his fastball and 77 RPM on his changeup in his last start against the Tampa Bay Rays, per Baseball Savant. 

Yankees Videos @snyyankees

Wanna give us the spin rate Josh?<br><br>(via @Jomboy_)pic.twitter.com/I9hPP4TRGG

Los Angeles Dodgers star Trevor Bauer was also caught up in the conversation over sticky substances and spin rate after a noticeable decline last week as well. 

Jorge Castillo @jorgecastillo

Max Muncy will pinch-hit for Trevor Bauer. <br><br>Bauer’s final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 100 pitches. <br><br>He threw 33 four-seam fastballs with an average spin rate of 2,612 rpm, according to Baseball Savant. That’s 223 rpm below his season average. pic.twitter.com/Nt8tyBipMe

But Donaldson happened to call out Cole, the Twins' next opponent at the time, and helped escalate a growing firestorm around baseball. 

"Is it coincidence that Gerrit Cole's spin rate numbers went down after four minor leaguers got suspended for 10 games?" Donaldson asked ahead of the series. 

As much as Donaldson doesn't regret those comments, he explained his thinking a bit more on Wednesday. 

Bally Sports North @BallySportsNOR

Josh Donaldson: "There's been 12 or more guys already whose spin rates have magically dropped in the last week." #MNTwins x Gerrit Cole 🔜🍿 pic.twitter.com/RoYqeljSps

It doesn't appear there's a clear consensus around the sport on this topic. While MLB and a number of hitters would prefer if pitchers didn't try to gain a competitive advantage on the mound, New York Mets slugger Pete Alonso said the practice didn't bother him consider how much stuff batters use to hold onto the equipment. 

Additionally, Alonso pointed to greater control on the mound proving vital in the case of teammate Kevin Pillar, who took a fastball to the face on a wayward pitch earlier this season with gruesome results. 

“I go in the box every single day and I see guys throwing harder and harder every day," Alonso said Wednesday. "I don’t want 99 [mph] slipping out of somebody’s hand because they didn’t have enough feel for it.”