Former OF Gose touches 100 in mound debut

Five years after last Majors appearance, reliever gets Cleveland fired up with 'live fastball'

September 21st, 2021

CLEVELAND -- The bullpen door swung open in the top of the fourth inning Monday night at Progressive Field, and out stepped . As he made his way to the mound, the 31-year-old completed both a literal and figurative journey from the outfield, simultaneously making a debut and a return.

More than five years after his last appearance in the Majors as a center fielder, Gose was a freshly promoted pitcher for his appearance in the nightcap of the doubleheader sweep Cleveland suffered at the hands of the Royals. Gose was charged with a run allowed in 1 2/3 innings of work in the 4-2 loss, which came on the heels of the Tribe’s 7-2 defeat in the opener.

But in casually pumping 100-mph fastballs and getting the seemingly unstoppable Salvador Perez swinging through strike three to put an exclamation mark on his imperfect-but-entertaining outing, Gose reaped the reward of five seasons of difficult -- and unusual -- work.

​​“That was pretty special for me,” Gose said. “It meant a lot to get the opportunity to go out there again. It’s been a while, and I’m just very excited and happy to be able to have the opportunity.”

The home crowd clearly knew how special the moment was, giving Gose, whose contract had been selected from Triple-A Columbus earlier in the day, a standing ovation when he was pulled after that Perez strikeout with two outs in the fifth.

“He was aggressive, he had the live fastball,” acting manager DeMarlo Hale said. “And I thought, considering this is his first time pitching in the big leagues, I’m very happy with what he did.”

A second-round Draft pick by the Phillies way back in 2008, Gose was a highly regarded position player prospect. He was dealt to the Blue Jays in 2010, part of the Phillies’ trade for Roy Oswalt, then to the Tigers in 2014, straight-up for Devon Travis. Gose had the speed and the arm to potentially be a Gold Glove-type talent in center field and a menace on the basepaths. But he didn’t have the stick. He produced just a .656 OPS in 372 games over five seasons with the Blue Jays and Tigers.

So when a frustrated Gose didn’t make Detroit’s Opening Day roster in 2017, he took up pitching. Some scouts had wanted him to focus on pitching as an amateur at Bellflower (Calif.) High School, and, at 26, he still had time to launch a new career. But while Gose had natural gas with his left arm, refining his control to the point of being deemed big league-ready took quite a while.

Gose said on Monday that there were “more than a few” times when it appeared he might not realize his dream of making it to the Major League mound.

So why did he press on?

“I love the game,” Gose said. “I love to play. I guess I’m too stupid to quit.”

Gose didn’t quit. And after a brief tenure in the Rangers’ system and an ill-fated attempt at making the Astros’ roster as a Rule 5 Draft pick, he found a home in a Cleveland system that prioritizes pitching development. Gose hasn’t ironed out all of his wildness (28 walks in 33 innings with Columbus this year), but the experience of pitching with the USA Olympic team only sharpened his focus. Gose allowed just one run in his last 14 innings with the Clippers, and so Cleveland came calling.

In Gose’s debut, it was easy to see why the Tribe has been patient with him over the last three years. He walked the first batter he faced, Hunter Dozier, to help set up a Royals run. But the radar readings on his fastball were consistently 99 and 100 mph, and his slider had bite. And when Gose got the hot-hitting Perez to chase a 98.7-mph four-seamer above the zone, it marked the last pitch of his outing yet felt like the start of something.

“This,” Gose said, “was a lot more special to me than debuting as a hitter.”

Little else was special for the Tribe in this dreary doubleheader. Triston McKenzie was rocked in the opener, and Cleveland was again outpitched in the nightcap. But in a season ultimately geared around player development, the Tribe lifted the curtain on one of its most interesting developmental projects. Here was the reinvented Anthony Gose, nearly a decade removed from his 2012 debut and just getting started.