3 REASONS TO BELIEVE IN MacKENZIE GORE
MacKenzie Gore was five hours into a seven-hour drive from Arizona to El Paso earlier this week when his phone rang. A.J. Preller was on the other end.
Gore had pitched five scoreless innings in Round Rock, Texas, before flying to Arizona to pick up his car. He was driving that car from Arizona to El Paso, where he was slated to throw a bullpen session with the Triple-A team the following day. That’s when Preller rang.
“He just asked me whether I wanted to throw my bullpen in El Paso or San Francisco,” Gore said.
And, in effect, that’s how Gore learned he’d been called up to the big leagues.
Gore threw that bullpen session in San Francisco on Tuesday and will make his Major League debut against the Braves on Friday night.
Man, it’s been a long time coming.
The coolest part of Gore’s callup, in my estimation, is that he really, truly earned it. There were times last year, when the Padres were starved for pitching, where they could’ve promoted Gore as a stopgap. But Gore was struggling. His mechanics were out of whack. He was walking too many hitters. Had the Padres called him up then, it wouldn’t have been organic.
Now? It’s a different Gore. He was excellent all spring. From what I’ve heard, the Padres were likely to include Gore on their Opening Day roster before they traded for Sean Manaea. Still, Gore earned the right to be the Padres’ first callup, the minute they needed a starter.
Three quick thoughts on Gore:
1. His fastball is special. It clocks in the upper 90s in velocity with elite spin. As such, hitters often take pitches at the bottom of the zone that look like balls but end up as strikes. They swing at pitches at the top of the zone that look like strikes but end up as balls. Said catcher Austin Nola: “A lot of guys have spin. A lot of guys have velocity. But when you combine that spin and that velo, it’s a different animal.” If Gore locates the pitch, it’ll be a truly elite Major League fastball.
2. His mechanics are in sync. New pitching coach Ruben Niebla worked extensively with Gore last October and November before the lockout. They worked specifically on Gore’s landing leg and maintaining consistency in his delivery. The effects are obvious. Gore is throwing strikes with regularity. And if he’s throwing strikes … good luck.
3. This seriously looks like a different MacKenzie Gore. He’s been wholly unfazed when he runs into trouble, knowing he has the stuff to get him out of it. I thought his answer from his penultimate Cactus League outing was telling:
“You know, I just feel really prepared,” Gore said. “It was a lot of work that I had to do to get here, and a lot of work that other people did with me. It’s just been a lot of time and effort from everybody here. I just feel prepared.
“That’s everybody’s goal. Everybody wants to be as prepared as they can be. The most prepared people end up being the more confident people. And they end up looking the most calm out there.”