Gore fans seven in dominant 2022 debut

April 10th, 2022

MacKenzie Gore has had a long road to get to this point in his career. A mix of mechanical issues and struggles at higher levels of competition have resulted in Gore’s slide from ending 2020 as the No. 3 prospect in baseball to his current ranking of No. 86 on Pipeline’s Top 100 prospect list. On Saturday, Gore looked like the dominant left-hander the Padres have expected him to be.

In his season debut, the left-hander threw five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts, allowing two hits in Triple-A El Paso’s 3-1 loss to Round Rock. Gore missed bats while filling up the zone, tossing 43 of his 63 pitches for strikes and registering 11 swings-and-misses.

“Good outings always help. We were confident going in, we’ve done a lot of work and we threw the ball well in [Spring Training],” said Gore after his start.

Gore fanned Rangers’ No. 7 prospect Josh H. Smith to start the game and didn’t allow a hit until Elier Hernandez singled to lead off the third inning. Gore allowed another single to Leody Taveras to start the fourth inning but got Zach Reks to ground into a 4-6-3 double play a batter later.

The 23-year-old ended his day with four consecutive punchouts, first getting Yohel Pozo to strike out swinging, then retiring Matt Carpenter, Sam Huff and Hernandez on 15 pitches to close out an impressive start to his season. In total, Gore allowed two baserunners and faced one batter over the minimum.

“There was a ton of work and time put into it, so I feel really prepared. I’m bringing some confidence to the mound,” said Gore.

Gore was on his way to becoming MLB’s next young ace in 2019, posting a 1.69 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP with 135 Ks to 28 walks in 101 innings at High-A and Double-A as a 20-year-old. He was named as one of baseball’s top left-handed pitching prospects and was shut down for the remainder of the regular season after his last start on Aug. 27.

The Padres’ No. 4 prospect spent 2020 at San Diego’s alternate training site working on issues with his mechanics and was poised to crack the starting rotation in 2021. Instead, Gore struggled at Triple-A to start the season and was sent to the Padres’ Arizona complex for more mechanical work.

“You never want to get to that point or think that you’re going to be that guy that has to do that, but it was what we had to do,” said Gore of his demotion to Rookie ball. “This game is hard, but you can get back quick. It makes you appreciate the guys that are really successful. Just understanding that this game is not easy and it takes a lot of work.”

He eventually worked his way back to Double-A, finishing the season with a 3.93 ERA and 61 strikeouts over 12 starts and 50 1/3 innings.

Gore impressed on the mound in Spring Training, striking out 16 batters and walking three in 12 innings with a 4.50 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. He’s using his strong March as a point for him to build off of this season while continuing to improve his four-pitch arsenal in preparation for a potential Major League debut later in 2022.

“I’ve always been a guy that works hard but I had to really figure out what was right for my body and that’s what these last couple of years have done,” said Gore. “There’s still a ton of work I need to do to get better, so I’m just staying locked in on what we think I need to do to get better and we’ll see what happens.”