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MLB Notebook

Gerrit Cole sidesteps substance accusations, blames spin rate drop on mechanics

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole stumbled and sidestepped questions about the use of spider tack, as the spin rate on his fastball dropped amid MLB's crackdown on pitchers using foreign substances on the mound.
Yankees ace Gerrit Cole stumbled and sidestepped questions about the use of spider tack, as the spin rate on his fastball dropped amid MLB's crackdown on pitchers using foreign substances on the mound.David Berding/Getty

The pitches Gerrit Cole threw in his last start weren’t rotating as much, and the New York Yankees ace said the spin rate dropoff was due to mechanical flaws — sidestepping a recent accusation that he cut back on tacky substances amid a Major League Baseball crackdown.

“I attribute it to just not being as good or as sharp as I wanted to be. It’s as simple as that,” Cole said Tuesday before the Yankees began a three-game series at Minnesota.

Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson, as part of wide-ranging comments last week about the presence of pitcher-friendly sticky stuff, casually wondered aloud whether Cole was suddenly trying to hide usage of grip aids — typically a mix of rosin and sunscreen — to avoid being caught.

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According to MLB Statcast data on the website Baseball Savant, Cole had a 125 rotations per minute decrease in his four-seam fastball last week when he allowed five runs in five innings in a loss to Tampa Bay. Cole, not quite halfway into the second season of a $324 million, nine-year contract, is third in MLB with 104 strikeouts. The three-time All-Star has a 2.26 ERA over 75 2/3 innings and 12 starts this season.

“I’m just not quite bringing out my best delivery. Of course it’s something that we monitor. Of course there are other variables that we monitor as well when we’re evaluating our performance from every game. You try to take as much information as you can as a player, and certainly that’s one of them,” Cole said. “We’re trying to get better this week and put in the work, and I’ll be as prepared as I possibly can for my next start.”

Cole is scheduled to pitch Wednesday against Donaldson and the Twins.

Mets’ Jeff McNeil expected to start rehab assignment by Sunday

New York Mets manager Luis Rojas said that he expects infielder Jeff McNeil to begin a rehab assignment by the end of the weekend.

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McNeil hasn’t played since May 16 because of a strained left hamstring. He’s hitting .242 with three home runs and eight RBIs on the season, but he batted over .300 each of his first three years in the big leagues, and the injury-plagued Mets could certainly use him back.

Rojas also said outfielder Michael Conforto (right hamstring strain) is probably a couple weeks from starting his rehab assignment, but he’s been able to hit and do defensive work. Outfielder Albert Almora (bruised left shoulder) was set to begin a rehab assignment Tuesday night, and infielder Luis Guillorme (right oblique strain) could be activated for the weekend.

McNeil was expected to be out until late June, but Rojas said he’s responded well to treatment and has been able to take grounders, run, and swing the bat.

Despite their injuries, the Mets entered Tuesday night’s game at Baltimore with a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL East.

Pablo Lopez, Marlins add to Rockies’ road woes, win 6-2

Pablo Lopez shut down the Rockies in eight innings of work on Tuesday.
Pablo Lopez shut down the Rockies in eight innings of work on Tuesday.Michael Reaves/Getty

Pablo Lopez took advantage of an extra day of rest by allowing only two runs in a career-best eight innings, Corey Dickerson hit a two-run triple, and the Miami Marlins opened a homestand by beating the Colorado Rockies 6-2.

Starling Marte had three hits and a slew of Marlins — Jazz Chisholm, Jon Berti, Adam Duvall, and Jesus Aguilar — had two apiece for Miami, which was coming off a 1-8 road trip. Aguilar drove in two runs, while Chisholm and Berti each scored twice.

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Lopez (2-3) struck out eight and allowed five hits, sharp the whole way after getting a planned additional day of rest. Dickerson’s triple highlighted a four-run third for Miami, which tacked on two more in the seventh.

Charlie Blackmon had two of Colorado’s five hits. The Rockies fell to 4-23 on the road this season, an ominous start to a six-game swing away from home.