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Brian Harkins Alleges He Gave Ball-Doctoring Substance to Gerrit Cole, Others

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IJanuary 8, 2021

New York Yankees' Gerrit Cole walks to the dugout after being removed during the sixth inning in Game 5 of the baseball team's AL Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Gregory Bull/Associated Press

Former Los Angeles Angels visiting clubhouse manager Brian "Bubba" Harkins named Gerrit Cole, Dylan Bundy, Matt Andriese, Yusmeiro Petit and other pitchers as those he supplied with an illegal ball-doctoring substance in an Orange County Superior Court filing Thursday.

According to the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna, Harkins, who is engaged in a court battle with the Angels and MLB, revealed the names in an opposition to a motion to dismiss filed on behalf of the league. 

Text messages from Cole—MLB's highest-paid pitcher—were among the documents submitted.

"Hey Bubba, it's Gerrit Cole, I was wondering if you could help me out with this sticky situation," Cole texted in January 2019. "We don't see you until May, but we have some road games in April that are in cold weather places. The stuff I had last year seizes up when it gets cold."

Harkins was fired in March and is claiming he was made a "public scapegoat" after an MLB memo warned the league it would begin enforcing a "long-ignored policy of forbidding the use of illegal substances to enhance a pitcher's grip."

The clubhouse manager was reportedly known to produce a mixture of pine tar and rosin for visiting players.

Pitchers have long used substances to doctor the ball while on the mound, and the act is notoriously widespread throughout the league. MLB didn't begin to police the use of these substances until spring training in 2020, when the league made clear it wanted to abolish the practice. Pitchers typically don't use enough of the substance for officials to notice during the game, and balls are replaced multiple times an inning, making detection difficult. 

Yet the renewed emphasis on the rule led to the termination of Harkins' employment with the Angels after 30 years. He's now suing the team and MLB for defamation, which the league sought to dismiss.

Per the L.A. Times: 

"In an opposition to the motion, filed Thursday, Harkins claimed many Angels used his concoction of rosin and pine tar over the years, including Troy Percival, Brendan Donnelly, Tyler Chatwood, Kevin Jepsen and, most recently, Cam Bedrosian, Keynan Middleton, Yusmeiro Petit, Luke Bard, Matt Andriese, Dylan Peters, Jose Suarez and Dylan Bundy.

"Percival, the Angels closer from 1995 to 2004, acknowledged in September that he taught Harkins how to make the mixture of pine tar and rosin in spring training 'mostly because it was so dry in Arizona and the balls were so slick out there.'

"Harkins also claimed that MLB has evidence implicating several star pitchers—including Cole, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber and Adam Wainwright—for using foreign substances to improve their grip on the ball."

The same filing included declarations from former MLB players Wally Joyner and Mike Sweeney, who both noted that "many people within the Angels organization knew about the mixture of rosin and pine tar Harkins used to make for pitchers."

The statements went on to note that multiple Angels players sought out Harkins for the substance over the years. 

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