Gore joins taxi squad, could debut Friday

April 13th, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Padres are likely to have a vacancy in their starting rotation on Friday night, and on Tuesday they welcomed a new starting pitcher into their clubhouse at Oracle Park.

It stands to reason, then, that , who joined the team in San Francisco on Tuesday, will make that start on Friday against Atlanta. But the Padres are going to wait at least one more day before finalizing those plans.

Left-hander Blake Snell was scratched from his start on Sunday with left adductor tightness. He briefly played catch on Tuesday, and will attempt to throw with a bit more intensity on Wednesday, which could still line him up to make that start.

"We're not 100 percent sure," manager Bob Melvin said. "There's a decent chance he goes on the IL. But we're going to wait until tomorrow."

Gore is on the team's taxi squad, as Melvin said, "in case something happens." That "something" is almost certainly linked directly to Snell's status.

"I'm just throwing a bullpen, staying ready," Gore said. "I don't really know anything else. ... We'll see how the next couple days play out, see what happens. But it means a lot. I'm just happy to be here."

Gore, the team's top pitching prospect and MLB Pipeline's No. 85 prospect overall, put forth an excellent Spring Training. He carried that success into the regular season, pitching five scoreless frames for Triple-A El Paso on Saturday.

In theory, that lines Gore up to start Friday night on five days’ rest. His arrival at Petco Park would be a long time coming. Once the top overall pitching prospect in baseball, Gore has plummeted those rankings over the past couple of seasons as he's dealt with command problems.

He worked extensively with new pitching coach Ruben Niebla prior to the lockout, then maintained a rigorous offseason regimen. When he arrived at Padres camp, Gore turned heads instantly.

"We saw it in the first sim game he threw and saw it some early in spring," Melvin said. "He came in ready to pitch. His mechanics were sound. He was throwing strikes with all his pitches."

Those pitches -- a lifey upper-90s fastball, complemented by three above-average offspeed offerings -- have always been devastating. So long as he’s in the strike zone, that is. Gore was MLB Pipeline's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2019 when he posted a 1.74 ERA and a .130 batting average against in 20 starts split between High-A and Double-A.

But Gore regressed during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and didn't earn the breakthrough that many had anticipated. In '21, Gore dealt with blister and mechanical issues and only made 12 starts.

No, Gore's path to the big leagues hasn't been direct. But it's worth remembering he's a 23-year-old left-hander with some seriously devastating stuff. In 2022, he already looks like a different pitcher, able to tap into that stuff, because his fastball is consistently in the strike zone.

"The mechanics are better, which is going to bring more confidence," Gore said. "I just feel comfortable on the mound."

And the next mound up just might be Petco Park’s.