Gore makes the most of his second inning

March 5th, 2021

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Disregard the results -- they were two innings in early March. But if 's up-and-down Cactus League debut is any indication, his path to a big league breakthrough should be crystal clear.

More of that second inning. Less of the first.

Gore's fastball was lively but erratic in the first inning of the Padres' 5-3 loss to Texas on Thursday at Surprise Stadium. He dealt with command issues similar to what plagued him at the team's alternate training site last summer, walking three and recording only two outs before the inning came to an early end.

In the second inning, Gore looked like a different pitcher -- the version that ranks as the sport's top pitching prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and the No. 1 prospect in the Padres’ organization. He made the most of his electric fastball, putting it precisely where he wanted to, while pairing it with a few excellent curveballs.

"When the fastball was in the zone, good things happened," Gore said. "The fastball had good life today. Just throw more strikes with it."

Sounds simple, when Gore puts it like that. In reality, it has been anything but.

In the early stages of camp last year, Gore dealt with a few mechanical issues that affected his command. They lingered into his outings at the team's alternate training site, and Gore never received the big league callup many expected.

Internally, the Padres are willing to give Gore a bit of a pass. He was a 21-year-old dealing with the effects of a global pandemic, pitching against the same hitters over and over again without any serious game action. As he adjusted, Gore began to look sharper toward the end of the year and was even in consideration for a postseason callup.

Gore, on the other hand, wasn't willing to give himself that pass.

"There's no excuse, I just wasn't very good," Gore said. "That was something I struggled with. But I learned a lot last year. ... I was just tested in a lot of ways I've never been tested before. I've never not been able to just let loose every five, six days and play a game."

So it sure felt nice to face opposing hitters who weren't decked out in Padres garb.

"It's been a long time since I started a game against another team," Gore said, breaking into a smile. "Really, it was just a lot of fun."

The Padres, of course, made significant upgrades to their rotation this winter, adding , and via trade. They built a five-deep group of starters around and .

Where, exactly, does that leave Gore? Well, the Padres still envision big league opportunity for him this season. With a 162-game schedule, they have plans to slow-play their projected starting five all summer. That means extra rest days and potentially a six-man rotation, at times. Depth will be paramount.

That's where Gore comes in -- and there might even be room on the Opening Day roster, Padres manager Jayce Tingler said.

"We're open to all ideas," Tingler said. "We're looking for quality arms, guys that can fill up the zone and help us out. We really don't care about how old you are. There's open competition."