TORONTO — Yes, it does look strange when Clay Buchholz pours water over his head and walks to the mound with dripping hair.
And when he reaches to touch his locks, it does look suspicious.
But is he cheating? And if he is, would he be that brazen about it?
The answer is probably no, he’s not cheating. He is 6-0 with a 1.01 ERA, and now people are looking at everything.
The allegation was made by Toronto television analyst Dirk Hayhurst, a former major league pitcher who told radio station Sportsnet 590 The Fan that Buchholz was “absolutely” cheating during his start Wednesday night against the Blue Jays.
The station’s website provided screenshots of Buchholz wiping two fingers on his right hand across his left forearm, which appeared to be partially covered with a white substance.
Hayhurst also leveled accusations via Twitter. “Forget the hair, I just saw video of Buchholz loading the ball with some Eddie Harris worthy slick’em painted up his left forearm. Wow.’’
“You could see it slathered on there,” he tweeted.
Asked Thursday if he were upset by the allegations, Buchholz said, “Not at all. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I definitely don’t think if I’d given up nine runs in 2⅓ innings it would have been an issue. That’s my guess. I don’t know. It is what it is.”
With all the publicity the accusations have created, Major League Baseball might at least take a look at the video. But will there be enough evidence to prove anything?
Buchholz explained his game routine.
“Before every start, I pat rosin on my arm, go up and get stretched,” Buchholz said. “They said I had something in my hair? It’s the bottle of water I pour over me between each inning. They don’t want you licking your fingers on the mound so it’s a way to have moisture. I wipe it off every time I touch my hair.
“Every pitcher puts rosin on. That’s why it’s there. It is what it is.”
Asked if he was annoyed at Hayhurst, Buchholz said, “I don’t have any ill feelings against anybody. That’s the way it works. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Blue Jays broadcaster Jack Morris, the owner of 254 career wins, also chimed in Thursday, saying Buchholz was throwing a spitball based on video review after the game.
That sentiment was dismissed by Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy before Thursday’s contest.
“I have faced guys that have thrown spitballs before and you know it right away,” said Remy. “It’s mostly on a fastball that’s going to dip and do all kind of crazy things, strange rotation on the baseball, and what’s the first thing you do? You ask the umpire to check the baseball. There was none of that going on here [Wednesday].”
Red Sox analyst Dennis Eckersley did not take Morris’s comments kindly. “To me, that’s clueless on his part,’’ Eckersley said on NESN’s postgame show. “Where’s Jack Morris been all these years, anyway? He finally gets a job up there in Toronto and he has to make statements like that and take away from what this kid has done? I think it’s wrong.
“I think Jack Morris should zip it,” Eckersley added. “I feel sorry for Buchholz to even have to deal with this. I’m styling here, and you’re taking away from me, a guy that can’t even make it to the Hall of Fame yet, and he’s chirping over there — zip it.”
During Thursday’s broadcast, Morris also accused Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa of doctoring the ball.
After the game, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was asked if he saw anything with Buchholz or Tazawa that seemed suspicious. “No. I didn’t see anything like that,” Gibbons said.
Maybe the Blue Jays don’t want to stir things up with their former manager in the opposite dugout. John Farrell knows all about Toronto’s pitchers and whatever skeletons they might have.
Said Farrell, “If accusations are going to be made because someone pitches well, we’ll take it as a compliment.” Farrell got his fill of the subject prior to Thursday’s game.
“It bothers me immensely when someone is going to make an accusation, and in this case cheating, because they’ve seen something on TV,” said Farrell. “[Buchholz has] got rosin on his arm. I think rosin was designed to get a grip. But the fact is, he’s got it on his arm. I’ve seen some people who have brought photographs to me. They’re false. The fact is the guy’s 6-0. He’s pitched his tail off. If people are going to point to him cheating? Unfounded.”
Buchholz and Farrell seemed to have the right answers. Buchholz shut out the Blue Jays for seven innings and allowed only two hits and three walks. His stuff was filthy.
When told of the allegations, David Ross, who caught Buchholz Wednesday, said, “That doesn’t make any sense and it’s not something I’ve ever seen. I know when there’s a scuffed ball, Clay throws it back to the umpire. He doesn’t even use it. So this makes no sense.”
One member of the Blue Jays’ personnel said the Jays were well aware that Buchholz touches the back of his wet hair, but “there’s nothing wrong with that as long as he wipes it off, which he does. The only thing an umpire or a team can bring to the attention of the umpire is if he’s going to his mouth or if we see something suspicious. Every team looks at the other guys for that stuff, but there’s nothing suspicious with Buchholz. He wipes his hands after he touches his hair.”
Pitchers have tried everything over the years to give their pitches more movement. It’s harder to get away with things these days. with so many cameras In Buchholz’s case, everything is out in the open. He’s he’s not hiding his wet hair. A reader first brought it to my attention that Buchholz also pours water on his right hip, something that has been caught on camera. NESN broadcasters Don Orsillo and Remy often have mentioned that Buchholz douses himself with water between innings.
No team has complained or offered any concern about Buchholz doctoring the baseball. Most teams realize that Buchholz’s stuff has been absolutely nasty and unpredictable.
Buchholz, who was named AL pitcher of the month for April on Thursday, was still the talk around Rogers Centre a day after he pitched, and it had nothing to do with rumors of him loading up the baseball.
“That’s cheap [expletive],” said one Sox player. “That’s just sour grapes by someone who knows nothing. It’s a shame to try to cheapen someone’s accomplishments by throwing that [expletive] out there. It’s a shame that anyone even writes or talks about it because it gets people thinking the wrong way. Clay has been incredible out there. He doesn’t cheat. He’s just that good. We all know it and the hitters he’s faced this year know it.”
Buchholz said he’s done nothing wrong so he’s not about to change his routine or the way he pitches. If you’ve got something on him, prove it.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.