NEW YORK (AP) — This much is clear: Michael Pineda had a dark substance smudged on his pitching hand during his first win for the New York Yankees.
Pine tar or dirt? We might never know.
Pineda took a two-hit shutout into the seventh inning, and Jacoby Ellsbury hit an RBI single off old roommate Clay Buchholz in his first game against the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees' 4-1 victory Thursday night left a bit of a mystery: Were Pineda's pitches plain old nasty, or was something more sinister involved?
"It's dirt," Pineda said. "Between the innings, I'm sweating too much, my hand. I'm putting dirt — I'm grasping the dirt. ... I'm not using pine tar."
Ellsbury drew all the pregame attention after switching sides in the rivalry during the offseason. But it was the dark brown, seemingly tacky substance on the lower palm of Pineda's right hand that became the focus.
Close-up camera shots showed Pineda (1-1) pitching during the early innings with something on his hand, and there was speculation it was pine tar to help him get a better grip on a chilly night. The game was never stopped for an umpire to examine him, and it whatever it was, it was gone by the fifth.
"I became aware of it in the fourth inning through the video that someone had seen," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "And then, when he came back out for the fifth inning, it looked, based on where it was told to me it was located, it looked like the palm of his right hand was clean."
Buchholz and fellow Red Sox ace Jon Lester both attracted questions last year about substances they had on the mound, but nothing came of them.
"The Red Sox didn't bring it to our attention, so there's nothing we can do about it," umpire crew chief Brian O'Nora said. "If they bring it to our attention, then you've got to do something."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi essentially repeated the same answer five times during his postgame news conference.
"I never saw it. There's nothing really for me to talk about," he said.
Making his first Yankee Stadium start 27 months after he was acquired from Seattle, Pineda appeared completely recovered from the shoulder surgery that sidelined him for two years. Throwing at up to 95 mph, he allowed four hits, struck out seven and walked two.
Brian McCann ended an 0-for-14 slide with a run-scoring single that put the Yankees ahead during a two-run fourth that also included a run-scoring double-play grounder by Alfonso Soriano.