Aces Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer are among numerous well-known pitchers to have been implicated as using a grip-enhancing substance by former Angels clubhouse attendant Bubba Harkins in a lawsuit against the team and Major League Baseball that accuses them of making him a scapegoat.
Harkins, who was fired last March as the league started to crack down on the use of foreign substances, filed a text message from Cole as evidence in "opposition to a request to dismiss the original lawsuit submitted by Harkins' attorneys in August," according to ESPN's Alden Gonzalez.
Cole's message to Harkins is from January 2019 and reads: "Hey Bubba, it's Gerrit Cole. I was wondering if you could help me out with this sticky situation [winky face emoji]. We don't see you until May, but we have some road games in April that are in cold weather places. The stuff I had last year seizes up when it gets cold ..."
Harkins was known around the league for providing pitchers with a grip-enhancing concoction ("as a courtesy") that was made from a mixture of pine tar and rosin, a recipe he first learned from longtime Angels closer Troy Percival.
Though using substances (including but not limited to pine tar and suntan lotion) has been a long-accepted, if not technically legal, aspect of pitching, MLB issued a memo in February 2020 disavowing the practice. Harkins' suit claims that he did not receive the memo, and thus didn't receive a proper warning before his firing. Pitchers have long argued that their use of grip-enhancing substance is, in part, a safety measure, with their improved control curbing the potential for hit batsmen or otherwise erratic throws.
Harkins' lawsuit claims that his dismissal has left him unemployable, and notes that no other individual has been punished for similar reasons.