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Yankees ace Gerrit Cole eager to test out MLB-altered baseball

New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole is apparently unclear whether the baseballs being used in spring training are the altered version that MLB will employ in the upcoming 2021 season or are from last season’s batch.

“I’ve been trying to get my hands on the balls here. Nobody can tell me if we’re using the real balls from this year’s [batch], or the balls from last year,” Cole said earlier this week from the Yankees’ spring training site in Tampa, Fla., per the New York Daily News. ”Nobody knows the answer yet.”

There appears to be some miscommunication between the Yankees and their players, as three industry sources reportedly told NYDN that the team was assured by the league that all 30 ball clubs were informed that the altered baseballs are at spring training sites. The Yankees, too, were said to have been assured by the league of the same after making an inquiry.

According to a report on MLB’s official site, Rawlings “loosened the tension on the first of three wool windings” within balls produced at its facility in Costa Rica and hand-sewn by workers. The adjustment is expected to limit the “bounce” of baseballs, which are also 2.8 grams lighter.

The alteration was set in motion after the record amount of home runs hit in 2019 and a subsequent study commissioned by the league that determined there was less drag on baseballs when compared to previous seasons.

A memo was sent to MLB clubs last month relayed that a study determined that baseballs to be used in 2021 will have less carry, per an Associated Press report referenced in the above MLB.com report. An independent lab has theorized baseballs hit over 375 feet will travel one to two feet shorter on average.

The notion that Major League Baseball and Rawlings have conspired to “juice” baseballs over the years to pump up home run totals of course has been not only the source of conspiracy theories but legitimate scientific studies.

So much so, in fact, that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has had to go on record on numerous occasions to dispel the “juiced ball” theory. However, the likes of Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander, among others, argued for years that the balls were indeed juiced to the benefit of hitters.

Cole is relieved either way that alterations have been made in light of the data, independent research and controlled studies.

“I mean, I was happy that there’s some [admission] that there’s been some tinkering. I mean, all the players have known it for the last three or four years to say the least,” Cole said. “That’s just kind of another look behind the curtain, of the Wizard of Oz and just smoke and mirrors and stuff. Let’s be a little bit more honest about that kind of stuff. I’m glad that it’s out in the open and we’re tackling it now.”

Hopefully, the Yankees pass along to Cole that there’s no cause for concern and that he is indeed using the new-and-improved baseballs — at least from pitchers’ perspectives — during spring training.