Washington Nationals’ MacKenzie Gore looks towards Nats debut; determined to remain healthy in ‘23…

Washington Nationals’ MacKenzie Gore looks towards Nats debut; determined to remain healthy in ‘23…

MacKenzie Gore, a 2017 first-round pick of the San Diego Padres who will turn 24 later this month, was acquired by the Washington Nationals in the big trade deadline deal for Juan Soto and Josh Bell on August 2, 2022 .Gore made his major league debut in mid-April last season, posting a 4.50 ERA, a 4.12 FIP, 37 walks (4.76 BB/9), 72 strikeouts (9.26 K/9) and a .248 line/ .346/.376 against in 16 games, 13 starts and 70 games played for the Friars before landing in IL with left elbow inflammation on July 25th.

Gore is off to an impressive start in the majors, with a 1.50 ERA, a 2.20 FIP, 17 walks, 57 Ks and a .200/.279/.241 line against in his first nine games, eight starts and 48 IP for the Padres.

Over the ensuing seven games (and five starts), those numbers grew to an 11.05 ERA, 8.29 FIP, 20 walks, 15 Ks and a .333/.454/.615 line against in 22 IP before the elbow issue hit left up.

The Nationals acquired the pitcher in the Soto trade knowing full well the elbow was an issue, but they were happy enough with what they saw to get the southpaw in the deal.

“He had a huge workload at the start of this season that he’s never had before,” GM Mike Rizzo explained shortly after the franchise-altering trade.

“The injury made things a bit more complicated, a bit more work, we had to do a lot of medical attention,” he added.

“But there was nothing hidden and the reports and the MRI were seen, and the doctor gave us the thumbs up to compete in the trade.

“We were happy to get him. We really see a starting, left-handed pitcher in the big leagues for years to come that we control for a long time.”

“It was just an embarrassment, and then … it’s minor,” Gore assured reporters when he first joined the Nats.

“So, yes, everything is fine. Just rebuild the strength and get everything 100%, and it should be fine.”

Gore ended up making four starts at Triple-A Rochester in the Nats’ system, but the club ultimately decided not to bring him back up to the majors to pitch during the final weekend of the ’22 season.

“My discussion with him and my discussion with him [Rizzo] is that he’s not going to play the rest of this year,” Martinez said at the end of last season.

“We’re going to — we liked what he’s done in the minor league starts, so instead of going there, especially with the uncertainties of what’s going on [with the weather at the time], we’re going to get him started on his winter program and we’re going to get him on a strengthening program and we’re going to get him on an endurance program. So he will work with our coaches.

“Because he’s new to all this stuff and what we’re trying to do this winter, so we want to get him started here right away.”

“I wanted to play,” Gore said on MASN’s Hot Stove last month. “It was different being traded and I wasn’t throwing when I was traded, so I wanted to get back out there and that’s the best way to get to know the guys, but I also realized we had to be smart. I had to be smart. I knew why I had gotten to where I was, so I figured it out.”

Neither Gore nor the Nationals felt he had anything to prove by returning to the mound in the majors, so they took what they saw as a cautious approach with the young, controllable pitcher who figures to be a of the 2023 rotation, provided he stays healthy. .

When he was, while dominating hitters in his first big league outing with the Padres, Gore gave a glimpse of what he can do at the major league level.

“I think that’s what I’m capable of…” Gore said of his early career comebacks in the majors and low ERA, a reporter noted in those starts. “When you look at — you know ERA isn’t something you necessarily look at, but just the things that were there and the command, I was going 5-6-7 at times, so I know I can do it at that level , so now I have to do it for six months.”

Gore threw 60.9% fastballs in his major league outings, averaging 94.7 MPH on the pitch, which opposing hitters posted a .232 AVG for the year.

He mixes in a curveball (18.0%, 80.8 MPH, .250 BAA), a slider (15.7%, 87.4 MPH, .286 BAA) and a changeup (5.3%, 84.8 MPH, 0.333 BAA).

Asked to describe himself as a pitcher to anyone who didn’t see him on the road or with the Padres last year, Gore told the MASN hosts that he is, “… a strong arm, good fastballs, some hard spins. I’ll make changes here and there, and really – just attacking the zone, kind of consistent on the mound in terms of behavior. I think that’s probably how I would bottle it.”

Although he didn’t make his Nats debut in 2022, Gore said last month that he was fully recovered and hard at work preparing for Spring Training and, hopefully, a long 2023 season.

“We’re full,” Gore said.

“We got healthy at the end, we got stronger and we just put in what we thought was right, but I’m ready now, treating it like a normal offseason and I’ll be ready for the spring.”

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