TAMPA, Fla. — Once Josh Donaldson gave the pinstripes for the first time since being acquired by the New York Yankees late Sunday night, the former American League MVP and ace Gerrit Cole decided to let bygones be bygones.
Donaldson, acquired from the Minnesota Twins alongside shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and catcher Ben Rortvedt in exchange for catcher Gary Sanchez and infielder Gio Urshela, had called out Cole in June 2021 after MLB’s crackdown on the use of foreign substances by pitchers.
“Is it coincidence that Gerrit Cole’s spin rate numbers went down after four minor leaguers got suspended for 10 games?” Donaldson said June 9 ahead of the second game of a three-game series between Yankees and Twins. “Is that possible? I don’t know. Maybe. At the same time, with this situation, they’ve let guys do it.”
After the Yankee right-hander struck out nine Twins over six innings, including Donaldson twice, Cole dismissed the comments as “outside chatter.”
But all those issues are now “in the rearview mirror,” Cole said Monday.
After reporting Monday to George M. Steinbrenner Field, the Yankees’ spring training facility in Tampa, Donaldson met with Cole and Yankees manager Aaron Boone, a conversation the right-hander categorized as “productive.”
“Look, if you’re committed to winning a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t matter,” Cole said. “We did talk and I don’t think there was anything that needed to really be squared away, just a little bit of listening from both sides.”
Said Donaldson: “We were just having a conversation because, obviously, there was a big stink that was made out of it last year, right? I think both sides wanted to be able to meet and address the issue that was at hand, as far as just hearing one another, and ultimately leading us back to our goals, [and] our goal is to win. And both of us are in the same clubhouse now and that is what we’re going to do.”
In addressing his previous comments on Cole’s diminished spin rate, implying the pitcher had been using foreign substances for a significant increase, Donaldson added: “Whatever happened, happened. Obviously, he felt like it was a better idea to probably strike me out, which he did a few times. So at the end of the day, I’m happy to be on the same team, and not have to strike out against him some more.”
Boone said the three of them sat in his office “for a while” and “had frank dialogue and perspective.”
“I think it’s gonna be a nonissue. I think it already is buried and a nonissue,” Boone said. “If you come in [the clubhouse] with the professionalism, and a grit, and a toughness and a competitiveness. … You’re going to find that’s one thing Josh came with here, that not only do I not worry about, but I’m excited about because they’re like-minded in certain ways, from a competitive standpoint, what they bring from an edge standpoint each and every day. I know two guys that desperately want to win a world championship, and that’s a good place to begin. And there’s no doubt in my mind that’ll sustain not only them, but our team.”
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he gave Cole a heads-up after finalizing the trade because of the contentious nature of the topic, with Donaldson having gotten in touch with representatives from Major League Baseball to share his insights on pitchers using sticky substances, which he categorized as “the next steroids of baseball.”
Asked whether he had changed his opinion of Cole since the trade, Donaldson said he never said that Cole was “a bad person” and added that he was satisfied with MLB addressing the issue.
“At the end of the day, both of us are competitors. And I respect Gerrit Cole for being a competitor,” Donaldson said. “When you watch him pitch, he competes and he wants to learn. And I think him and I are similar in that scenario. Any other further things about that, I think the league has addressed and that’s not up for me to talk about it anymore. If I thought that it was still an issue, I would still talk about it. But I don’t.”