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Gore on Paddack's path, even if not same speed

@AJCassavell
February 14, 2020

PEORIA, Ariz. -- MacKenzie Gore is the top-ranked pitching prospect in baseball, on a team starved for a championship. He's in big league camp at age 20, in an organization with a reputation for shuttling its young players quickly to the big leagues. Gore knows these things, of course. The

PEORIA, Ariz. -- MacKenzie Gore is the top-ranked pitching prospect in baseball, on a team starved for a championship. He's in big league camp at age 20, in an organization with a reputation for shuttling its young players quickly to the big leagues.

Gore knows these things, of course. The expectations that have been placed upon him are nothing short of monstrous.

But he doesn't bother entertaining those thoughts. Because, frankly, Gore has work to do.

"It's something you don't really think about," said Gore, who faced hitters in a live session for the first time in camp on Friday. "There's a lot of work that has to be done. ... So you just try to keep getting better."

Keep getting better -- Gore has done exactly that since the Padres selected him No. 3 overall in the 2017 Draft. As MLB Pipeline's Pitcher of the Year last season, the left-hander posted a 1.69 ERA with 135 strikeouts in 101 innings.

"It was a good year," Gore said, underselling himself quite a bit. "I'll just build off that and see what happens."

Gore threw 15 pitches on Friday -- five apiece to Francisco Mejía, Tommy Pham and Luis Torrens. He did so in front of the largest gathering of the day, one that included coaches, front office members and media.

A year ago, a young right-hander named Chris Paddack found himself in a similar situation. He was one of the sport's top pitching prospects, entering his first big league camp. Paddack defied the odds, and -- after an utterly dominant Cactus League showing -- he made the Opening Day roster. He also earned a nickname -- "The Sheriff" -- with his swagger and cowboy style.

In the buildup to Spring Training, that comparison has been made more than once (including here in this space). But it's worth pointing out why the two situations are different.

A year ago, there were at least three places in the rotation (and arguably as many as five) up for grabs. This year, there might not be a single spot available. Gore would probably need to kick down the door -- and even that might not be enough.

Paddack has new ink: 'You're looking right at the lion'

Still, there's plenty to be gleaned from Paddack's situation, and not just from an observational standpoint. Paddack and Gore are teammates and friends who get to share their experiences. On report day, the two sat down to discuss big league camp.

"[You're] here for a reason," Paddack said. "Put your head down and go to work. ... You're one of those guys now. It's time to own that and live your dream, man. That's basically what I told him."

Gore's progression has mirrored Paddack's at most steps. Like Paddack, he earned a late-season promotion to Double-A in the summer before his first big league camp. There, Gore worked with Torrens.

If any Minor Leaguer should know what a big league arm looks like, it's Torrens. The Padres selected him in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft and then let him toil for a year in the big leagues as a backup catcher to ensure he would remain on their roster. Count Torrens among those eager to see Gore against big leaguers for the first time.

"It is [Major League stuff]," Torrens said. "I'm excited to see him pitch here, because I think he's ready. He's always competing, too. That's why I like him. You see him on the mound, you're like, this guy's ready. It's fun to catch."

Later this month, Gore will get his first shot at big league hitters in a game situation. Maybe he kicks down the door and forces his way onto the roster. Maybe his progression is a bit slower, as expected. The Padres know the future is bright either way.

Deep down, Gore probably does, too. But, again, he doesn’t seem all that concerned with the future.

"If you take things day by day and do things the right way, good things will happen," Gore said. "Control what you can control -- that's how I go about my business. That's what I've been doing the last couple of years.

“It's been working.”

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.