Corey Kluber accused of doctoring pitches by ex-Angels clubhouse attendant who accused Gerrit Cole

A former Los Angeles Angels clubhouse attendant has accused a second New York Yankees pitcher of doctoring baseballs in violation of Major League rules, naming two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber in report on Monday after previously implicating Gerrit Cole in a defamation lawsuit.

Brian ‘Bubba’ Harkins, who was fired in 2020 for providing sticky foreign substances to pitchers, revealed to Sports Illustrated that Kluber was among a list of clients that included Cole.

In response to the allegation, Kluber’s agent, BB Abbott, told Sports illustrated that Harkins was lying.

‘[Harkins] never personally gave anything of the sort to Corey Kluber nor has he ever used any substance prepared by Bubba [Harkins] in a MLB game,’ Abbott told SI in defense of his client. ‘If he is saying anything contrary to that, it is a blatant lie.’

Harkins, who served as the Angels’ visiting clubhouse manager, sued the Angels and MLB for defamation in Orange County, California in August of 2020 after becoming the only staffer to be fired amid the league-wide crackdown on pitchers doctoring baseballs. He claims that Kluber became a regular customer of his when the All-Star was pitching for the Cleveland Indians after hearing about it from a teammate.    

In his lawsuit, Harkins argued that the practice was widespread. He shared an alleged text message from Cole in a January filing showing the All-Star requesting a concoction he claims he learned from former Angels reliever Troy Percival, who has since admitted to doctoring balls with a mixture of pine tar and rosin.


RULE 3.01:  No player shall intentionally discolor or damage the ball by rubbing it with soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sand-paper, emery-paper or other foreign substance. 

RULE 6.02: The pitcher shall not… apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball.

‘Hey Bubba, it’s Gerrit Cole, I was wondering if you could help me out with this sticky situation,’ the pitcher wrote, according to Harkins’s filing. ‘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’s lawsuit has since been tossed by a judge, who demanded that the former clubhouse attendant pay $35,000 in legal fees for the team and league.

Cole was pulled back into the controversy last week when Minnesota Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson casually brought the pitcher’s name up in an interview session, correlating a drop in Cole’s spin rate with MLB’s anticipated crackdown on the sticky stuff.

Cole sidestepped questions on Tuesday about his suspected use of Spider Tack, a sticky paste favored by weightlifters.

‘I don’t… I don’t know,’ Cole told reporters on a Zoom call in between several pauses. ‘I don’t quite know how to answer that, to be honest.’

MLB recently announced that pitchers are to be checked for foreign substances repeatedly by umpires, who are permitted to conduct 10 random checks per game.

At least four minor league pitchers have been suspended this season for using banned foreign substances to doctor baseballs — ostensibly evidence of a stronger crackdown in the game’s feeder system than in the big leagues during this historically dominant stretch of pitching.

There have been six no-hitters in the young season — one shy of the all-time record — and through May 31, MLB hitters were batting just .236, the lowest mark since 1968. The rise in pitcher dominance could be the result of home-brewed sticky substances, which are typically made from sunscreen and rosin or other prohibited materials, like Spider Tack.

The prevalence of doctored baseballs is suspected to have spiked in recent seasons, and as a result, pitchers are improving their spin rate and becoming harder to hit.

Donaldson elaborated on the matter Wednesday to clarify that he’s concerned about many more opponents in the game than just Cole.

‘With Gerrit Cole, he was the first guy to pitch since the suspensions happened and he’s the first guy that you could see spin rates going down,’ Donaldson said. ‘There’s been 12 or more guys already whose spin rates have magically dropped in the last week, so it’s not just Gerrit Cole.’

Donaldson said he believes the usage of grip aids has ‘got out of control’ in the last few seasons.

‘If you were to give $100 fake counterfeit money to an experienced bank teller, right away within five seconds you’re going to know that that’s not real money,’ Donaldson said. ‘Just think about how many pitches I’ve seen in my career, think about Nelson Cruz, a lot of these guys who have seen a lot of pitches. We know when stuff’s up.’

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Wednesday he’s anticipating an ‘aggressive’ crackdown at the major league level soon.

‘It’s gonna be a little bit different,’ he said.

Astros manager Dusty Baker noted last week that pitchers have been using foreign substances ‘since the beginning of time.’ While Baker says he will adhere to whatever mandates come from the league, he’s concerned about issues that could arise from stricter enforcement.

‘Everybody’s talking about speed of the game,’ he said. ‘This is gonna slow the game down even more. So I don’t know what we can do. I don’t know how enforceable it is. And the umpires have enough to worry about doing just calling balls and strikes and outs and safe.’