By Larry Fine
BOSTON (Reuters) – Controversy was in the air before Thursday’s Game Two of the World Series as Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester denied allegations that he cheated in Wednesday’s 8-1 win over the Cardinals in the series opener.
Cardinals minor leaguer Tyler Melling tweeted a picture of Lester appearing to rub a slimy green substance on the ball during his outing, and wondered on the social networking website whether he was using Vaseline to make his pitches harder to hit.
Lester stopped to address reporters outside the Boston dugout during warm-ups prior to Thursday’s Game Two at Fenway Park against St. Louis.
“The picture does look bad, but it’s resin,” said Lester, who blanked the Cardinals on five hits over 7-2/3 innings while striking out eight in a masterful performance. “It’s resin. In my next start, I’ll do the exact same thing.”
Boston manager John Farrell defended Lester during his pre-game news conference, Major League Baseball considered it a closed case while the Cardinals general manager called it “a non-issue.”
“We cannot draw any conclusions from this video,” an MLB spokesperson told reporters. “There were no complaints from the Cardinals and the umpires never detected anything indicating a foreign substance throughout the game.”
Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “As far as I’m concerned it’s a non-issue. It’s something that arose in social media and not from our players or manager or our coaching staff. To me it does not represent a concern.”
Farrell, who before taking the Red Sox manager’s job had previously served as the team’s pitching coach, said: “If you know Jon Lester, he sweats like a pig and he needs resin. And you know what, he keeps it in his glove.
“Other guys will keep it on their arm. Other guys will keep it on their pant leg. So that’s my response to the allegations.”
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said he would not blame the defeat on any question of bending the rules.
“The way that we approach this is we just play the game,” said former major league catcher Matheny. “We don’t deny that some things have been acknowledged. And if that’s what he claims, then that’s what it is. That’s all there is to it.
“And right now it’s pretty much a dead issue. We move on with the fact that the league now has to take notice.”
Lester said he throws a resin bag into his glove before every game and rubs his fingers on it during the contest to get a better grip on the ball.
The left-hander said he first began covering his glove with resin to keep from disrupting his tempo by walking to the back of the mound to grab the resin bag when his hand felt damp.
“It’s perfectly legal,” Lester said about his practice. “They put it (resin bag) back there for a reason.”
“I take it as a compliment. I felt like I had good stuff last night.
“It’s all I’ve ever used and all I will use,” he underlined. “I know that not once I have cheated. Won’t cheat.”