Last season I wrote a piece updating the whereabouts and what about MacKenzie Gore. This season you don’t have to have a special clearance to see him work. He’s on the big stage, in MLB. Last season he spent a great portion of the year hid away at the training facility in Arizona. No more. He is here and the the question is; is he here to stay?
Mike Clevinger will make his next and probably last rehab start for El Paso this week. He is being built back up to join the rotation for the Padres, and should join the team on this upcoming road trip. Most likely he will move Nick Martinez to long relief and Pedro Avila back to AAA. Gore will start game two of the series versus the Reds. Blake Snell is to begin his rehab starts this week in the minors and will likely need three starts to be ready to rejoin the Padres as well. This should give Gore three more starts before the Padres have a big decision on who fills out their five man rotation.
With Yu Darvish, Sean Manaea and Joe Musgrove cemented in the first three spots, Gore, Clevinger and Snell will soon be vying for the last two spots. It’s easy to say Gore gets pushed back to AAA and the Padres run with Snell and Clev rounding out the staff but right now Gore is making a solid case to stay. With upcoming starts against the Reds, Guardians and Marlins it should be easy to see Gore putting up good to great numbers and forcing the Padres to rethink sending him down. Padres manager Bob Melvin has stated he plans to use a five man rotation so someone has to be the odd man out. Unfortunately for Gore he is the only one that can be optioned to the minors.
Should the Padres send Gore down though? The publicized thought has been “once he’s here, he is here to stay.” That’s not to say if he falters or flops he can’t go back down and get back on track. But so far Gore has shown he not only deserves to pitch at this level, but he is also showing he can be very good at this level too. Sure he has a heavy fastball mix, and using it almost 70% of the time. But when a lefty throws 98mph and averages a strike out per inning, can you really find fault there? His slider is getting more usage, but he still lacks great feel to the pitch. As the usage goes up, the pitch is looking better. He is only two starts in to his young career. His off speed stuff is going to continue to get better. His calling card throughout his successful MiLB days was his change up. He barely has used it yet (5% of the time). Once he commands all four of his pitches at the big league level he will have nothing left to prove in the minors.
Can he get there? Can he go 3-0 and show a strong four pitch mix? These next two weeks will be a great test for him. I hope he passes with flying colors. I’m really hoping he makes the upcoming decision as absolutely difficult as possible for Melvin and Padres GM AJ Preller. I truly believe this is his huge opportunity to shine that he missed last season. It is his time to grab a spot in the rotation, and not relinquish it to anyone. I’m pulling for the young man. You go MacKenzie Gore.