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'It was pine tar'
Coach says pitchers often use foreign substances
Posted: Monday October 23, 2006 4:32PM; Updated: Tuesday October 24, 2006 11:09AM
SI.com's Jon Heyman talked to a bullpen coach about Kenny Rogers, foreign substances and what likely went on Sunday night in Rogers' 3-1 Game 2 World Series victory. For the record, Rogers' story is that the noticeable mark on the palm of his left hand that was picked up by Fox was a "clump of dirt," and Major League Baseball isn't pursuing the matter further. But here's what one bullpen coach said about it:
"It was pine tar. It couldn't be anything else. Pitchers use pine tar, shaving cream and suntan lotion. Pitchers use them to help them grip the ball and make the ball move more. Bullpen guys sometimes keep suntan lotion in the ball bags. It's not for a tan. Pine tar works the best. It's been around the longest. But lately, more and more guys are using shaving cream and suntan lotion. There's no chance to be caught with shaving cream or suntan lotion.
"I don't know Kenny Rogers, but I'm guessing he had to use pine tar because it was so cold. He probably usually uses shaving cream or suntan lotion because they blend in. A lot of guys use shaving cream or suntan lotion, or both, because there's no way you could detect them. But it was so cold in Detroit. You need moisture or sweat to make the shaving cream or suntan lotion work, so it was probably too cold to use shaving cream or suntan lotion.
"Pine tar, which has been around forever, has a cakiness to it, and it works in the cold. A lot of guys use pine tar, too, but I'm guessing Rogers doesn't use it too much because he didn't know how to hide it. With suntan lotion or shaving cream, you can put it anywhere because it blends in. You see David Wells wiping his forearms after every pitch. That's either suntan lotion or shaving cream he's applying to his hand.
"Pine tar is the best, but you have to be careful with it because it's detectable. There are pine tar rags. But usually the pitchers keep the pine tar on their glove. They put it either deep in the pocket or the heel of the glove or inside the glove. Then when they take the glove off, with your index finger, middle finger or thumb, they get the pine tar.
"I am guessing Rogers didn't really know how to use pine tar, because he put too much on. It probably spread from his glove to the palm of his hand.
"You have to try to be inconspicuous about it. He probably put the pine tar on the glove but it started to leak and build up on his hand. There was nothing he could do about it. It started to cake up too much. Pine tar also makes a stain on the ball.
"Guys have to reapply pine tar every inning. They wipe it off their fingers with alcohol between innings. Then they reapply it the next inning.
"Pitchers usually hide the pine tar on their glove but also may put it on the back of their pant leg or put it on a pad in their back pocket. If they do that, they can slip their middle finger into their back pocket to apply it.
"The pine tar blends in nicely with the glove if it's the right color. I'd check which gloves he was using which inning. You just get it in your hand and rub it up. The pine tar allows the index finger and thumb to apply more pressure on the ball. With Rogers and his curveball, he needs more pressure on his thumb. It also helps the ball move a little extra. If the ball is fractionally heavier on one side, it will move more.
"But the predominant reason to use the pine tar is for the grip and to apply the necessary pressure to throw your pitches. The ball was coming out of his hand pretty good. It's good for the splitter, the cutter, the slider and the curveball.
"Rogers isn't a very hard thrower. He depends on movement. It can even help with the changeup. The hard thing about throwing a splitter is controlling it. If you apply pine tar to the middle finger and index finger, it allows you to grip it better and gain more control. But pine tar is very visible. That's why you have to be careful. A lot of times you have to wipe it off between innings with alcohol. It comes right off with alcohol.
"He definitely was using pine tar. It can cake with pine tar and rosin. Maybe after the second inning, he went back to the shaving cream and added moisture. I'd say he was either hiding it better or he went back to the shaving cream or suntan lotion.
"Some guys use a combination of all three -- pine tar, shaving cream and suntan lotion -- or you could use one or two. They use the sports suntan lotion so they don't accidentally irritate their eyes.
"I bet Tony La Russa's pitchers are mad at him for saying anything, because a lot of guys do it, and I'd be surprise if there's a whole staff of guys who don't do it. In fact, I'd say a majority of guys use one of the three -- shaving cream, suntan lotion or pine tar. They can't like him ratting out the other team when everyone does it. Maybe he had to say something because it's the World Series, it's on TV and he probably has to answer to his owner.
"But you'll notice he didn't continue to talk about it, and he instructed his guys not to talk about it. They probably have no interest in catching Rogers because if they do then the umpire is looking at everyone.''