The arrival of MacKenzie Gore has been something Padres fans have been looking forward to ever since the southpaw was drafted third overall in 2017.
MacKenzie Gore was with the San Diego Padres throughout the 2020 season, working out at Petco Park, but he wasn’t yet ready to pitch at a major league level. He struggled with injuries and poor play in 2021 but still found himself at spring training in 2022. The young lefty looked solid all spring, but the additions of Sean Manaea and Nick Martinez meant that he would start the season in Triple-A El Paso.
However, Blake Snell’s adductor tightness has opened up a spot in the rotation, and Bob Melvin just announced that Gore will debut on Friday night against the Atlanta Braves. He’s been with the Padres for the last few days, and he’s got a locker in the clubhouse.
It’s a very exciting moment for Padres fans, but the question does need to be asked: Is MacKenzie Gore really ready?
Gore has spent his entire career in the spotlight, having been ranked as a Top-30 prospect in baseball for his entire career. That changed prior to this season, as he dropped to 86th, according to MLB.com. He played at every level of the minor leagues in 2021 but posted a disappointing combined 5.27 ERA. He also dealt with injuries, mainly blisters, limiting him to just over 50 innings last season. Gore’s only thrown more than 100.0 innings once in his professional career, throwing 101.0 frames in 2018.
The Whiteville High School graduate is no longer the “can’t miss prospect” he once was.
His stock dropped dramatically over the winter, but he was a changed pitcher when he came to spring training. Padres manager Bob Melvin said, “We saw it early in spring. He came in ready to pitch. His mechanics were sound. He was throwing strikes with all his pitches […] Each and every outing. I think he gained confidence to be where he is right now.”
Gore’s fastball was reliably in the high 90s, even touching 99 at times. His control, something he really struggled with last season, looked much better in the spring exhibitions. He walked just three batters in his 12.0 innings of spring training, striking out 16.
The addition of new Padres pitching coach, Ruben Niebla, who joined from Cleveland, surely proved helpful to Gore. After the 2020 minor league season was canceled, Gore found a hitch in his delivery, which he struggled with throughout the 2021 campaign. Niebla helped to work it out of Gore’s motion, and he looked much smoother in his work in the spring.
The hype train for Gore was strengthened even more after his first start in El Paso. Gore went five innings, allowed just two hits and no runs, struck out seven batters, and didn’t walk anyone. The strong start to the season helped to show how truly special Gore is when he’s at his best.
On Tuesday, Gore arrived in San Francisco as part of the taxi squad, and when Blake Snell goes on the 10-Day IL, it’s expected that Gore will be activated as a result. Gore told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “We’re definitely closer. We’re here. Kind of see how the next couple of days play out and see what happens. But yeah, it means a lot. Just happy to be here.”
While both Snell and Mike Clevinger are expected to return soon, Gore could stay up with the Padres as they get back up to speed. It will be the biggest test of Gore’s young career. It’s a test that he is ready for.
The much-anticipated debut of MacKenzie Gore is here. Friday evening is must-watch TV.