It’s widely known -- and generally accepted -- that most major league pitchers use pine tar, or sunscreen, or some other type of sticky ointment to help grip the baseball on cold nights. Batters don’t mind because it prevents them from getting beaned by wild pitches, and umpires don’t often enforce the rule that bans foreign substances because both sides are doing it and complaints are rare.
But you can’t make it too obvious, and you probably don’t want to try your luck if your “cheating” was exposed in a previous start against a long-time division rival. Yankees starter Michael Pineda apparently didn’t get that memo.
Pineda was spotted with a brown streak on his hand during his April 10 outing against the Red Sox in New York, and that streak moved to his neck on Wednesday night at Fenway Park. Boston manager John Farrell alerted home plate umpire Gerry Davis in the bottom of the second inning after Pineda had retired two straight hitters. Davis examined the streak with his finger and ejected the big right-hander immediately.
Pineda admitted after the game that it was indeed pine tar, and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told the media that a suspension is expected. It could be as long as 10 games, which would mean two missed rotation turns for the 25-year-old, who has registered a promising 1.83 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 19 2/3 innings (four starts) this season after making zero big league appearances in 2012 and 2013 largely due to shoulder issues.
Vidal Nuno is already filling in for Ivan Nova -- who is facing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery -- so it’ll probably be David Phelps as the fill-in for Pineda. Phelps owns a 3.86 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings of relief this season, and may be a worthwhile addition in AL-only fantasy leagues.
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Troubling News For Trumbo
The Diamondbacks rallied for five runs in the ninth inning Wednesday to take down the Cubs in the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field, but the celebrating didn’t last long for the visiting Snakes. After the game it was revealed that starting left fielder Mark Trumbo has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. He’ll head back to Phoenix, Arizona on Thursday for a second opinion from team physicians, but the diagnosis is doubtful to change.
Trumbo had a stress fracture in his right foot in 2011 that took nearly six months to heal. He told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic on Wednesday evening that this particular fracture doesn’t feel as bad, but an extended absence should obviously still be expected.
Trumbo had rattled off seven home runs and 19 RBI in 21 games played with his new team. Now the 6-18 Diamondbacks have to dig out of their massive National League West standings hole without one of the game’s premier sluggers.
Cody Ross stands to gain more playing time and now has decent value in deeper mixed fantasy leagues.
Harang Shines Again For Braves
Here’s where we attempt to explain the sudden resurgence of Aaron Harang, who tossed six innings of one-run ball and struck out 11 batters in the Braves’ defeat of the Marlins Wednesday afternoon at Turner Field. He now has a 0.85 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 33 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings this season with Atlanta.
Harang is still throwing the same four pitches -- a high-80s fastball, a lower-80s slider, a mid-70s curveball, and an 84 mph changeup -- but he had a 5.40 ERA in 143 1/3 innings last season between the Mariners and Mets, and this year he has opened as one of the top starters in baseball. So here’s where we stop attempting to explain his sudden resurgence.
The 35-year-old right-hander had a 4.41 ERA (90 ERA+), 1.41 WHIP, and 7.0 K/9 in 952 innings between the 2008 and 2013 campaigns. Trust the larger sample size. And sell high, if that’s at all possible.
Incoming: A Healthy Kershaw
Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw has been cleared to begin a minor league rehab assignment Friday with the High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and could be back in the Los Angeles starting rotation by the second week of May if everything goes smoothly on the farm. Kershaw has been out since March 29 with a teres major muscle strain. His one regular-season start was at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia, during which he tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Diamondbacks. Expect the same ace-like form out of the gate once he’s activated from the disabled list. The Dodgers have treated the $215 million man with great care.
National League Quick Hits: Braves closer Craig Kimbrel threw a perfect ninth inning Wednesday against the Marlins to earn his sixth save of the season … Aroldis Chapman (head) is on track to begin a minor league rehab assignment early next week … Zack Greinke enjoyed his first double-digit strikeouts game as a member of the Dodgers on Wednesday night against the Phillies … Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright (knee) does not expect to miss a start … Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez picked up his MLB-leading ninth save in Wednesday’s win over the Padres ... Jhoulys Chacin (shoulder) could rejoin the Rockies’ starting rotation before the end of April … Giancarlo Stanton collected his 27th RBI of the season Wednesday in the Marlins’ loss to the Braves … Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez was lifted from his start Wednesday with mild shoulder tightness … Josh Johnson is scheduled to undergo Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery on Thursday … Diamondbacks closer Addison Reed earned his fourth save of the season in Wednesday’s comeback win over the Cubs … Mets manager Terry Collins said Wednesday that Daisuke Matsuzaka could eventually move into the club’s closer role … Justin Ruggiano is expected to land on the disabled list with a severe left hamstring injury that he suffered Wednesday afternoon … Giants outfielder Michael Morse slugged two home runs in Wednesday’s defeat of the Rockies … Danny Espinosa finished 2-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base in the Nationals’ win over the Angels on Wednesday … Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter had a four-hit night in Wednesday’s loss to the Mets.
American League Quick Hits: White Sox ace Chris Sale (elbow) expects to be activated from the disabled list when first eligible on May 3 … Albert Pujols finished 2-for-4 with an RBI double on Wednesday -- the day after slugging his 499th and 500th career home runs … Martin Perez threw his second straight complete game shutout Wednesday in the Rangers’ win over the A’s … Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he’s sticking with Ernesto Frieri as closer despite the right-hander’s recent struggles … Derek Jeter lost his 11-game hitting streak Wednesday as the Yankees fell to the Red Sox … Desmond Jennings stole two bases in the Rays’ loss to the Twins on Wednesday … Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager homered twice -- the second a walkoff -- in Wednesday’s comeback win over the Astros … Matt Harrison (back) is scheduled to join the Rangers’ starting rotation Sunday in Seattle … Will Middlebrooks (calf) could be activated from the disabled list this weekend … Astros reliever Jesse Crain (biceps) still hasn’t been cleared for extended spring training games … Ivan Nova’s elbow MRI has been sent to Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion … Twins top prospect Byron Buxton (wrist) is scheduled to play in his first extended spring training game on Monday … Josh Fields blew his first save of the season Wednesday in the Astros’ loss to the Mariners … John Lackey struck out 11 and tossed eight innings of one-run ball Wednesday as the Red Sox beat the Yankees … White Sox closer Matt Lindstrom picked up his third save of the season in Wednesday’s victory over the Tigers … Mike Moustakas hit his fourth homer in eight days Wednesday in the Royals’ loss to the Indians … Chris Colabello drove in four runs Wednesday in the Twins’ extra-innings victory against the Rays and now has 26 RBI on the year.