Ex-MLB Clubhouse Manager: Cole, Verlander, More Pitchers Requested Foreign Substances

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AP Photo/Jim Mone

One of the biggest talking points in Major League Baseball is how many pitchers are using foreign substances to improve their command and the spin rate on their pitches.

With that as the backdrop, Stephanie Apstein and Alex Prewitt of Sports Illustrated spoke to Brian Harkins, who was the Los Angeles Angels’ visiting clubhouse manager for more than three decades and gave details on the pitchers he says he helped provide with sticky substances during his career.

He mentioned a number of notable names, including Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Corey Kluber and Adam Wainwright.

Harkins was fired in March 2020 before what would have been his 39th overall season with the Angels and 31st as the visiting clubhouse manager. He told Apstein and Prewitt that then-general manager Billy Eppler fired him and said the league conducted an investigation that determined he broke rules preventing employees from providing such substances to players.

Harkins filed a defamation lawsuit against the Angels and the league and is appealing a judge’s dismissal of it.

While he didn’t deny he provided such substances to Angels players and opponents, he is not happy he has been singled out.

“If they did an investigation and only found me, it’s a pretty bad investigation,” he said.

Harkins said former Angels closer Troy Percival had a formula to make the substances, and he became the point of contact after the relief pitcher was no longer on the team. He provided Sports Illustrated with text messages, Venmo transaction records and shipping receipts to help corroborate his claims.

“It just sickened me to watch the players … grabbing their wrists and thumbing their gloves and hats,” he said of watching baseball now. “I thought, ‘Well, one guy got fired over it, and it was me. And they’re going to supposedly clean up the mound, which they haven’t.'”

That he mentioned Cole is notable because the New York Yankees ace recently stumbled through an answer when asked if he used the substance Spider Tack:

Cole was asked that after Minnesota Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson asked reporters, “Is it coincidence that Gerrit Cole’s spin rate numbers went down [Thursday] after four minor leaguers got suspended for 10 games? Is that possible? I don’t know. Maybe. At the same time, with this situation, they’ve let guys do it.”

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt also told reporters in May, “This is baseball’s dirty little secret, and it’s the wrong time in the wrong arena to expose it,” after umpire Joe West confiscated relief pitcher Giovanny Gallegos’ hat.

In April, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported in April that MLB was investigating balls from a game Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer pitched.

On Saturday ESPN’s Buster Olney reported the league is on the verge of implementing a plan to have umpires check pitchers randomly throughout games and cited a source who said, “The enforcement has not started yet because all parties involved want to give pitchers time to adjust.”

When the enforcement begins, players will face potential suspensions if they are found to be using substances.

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