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Gushue great fit at Harrisburg

Veteran catcher, who made his Major League debut last year with Cubs, is aiding young pitchers in the Washington system in his second stint with the Nationals; he hit two homers in a win at Bowie on Tuesday …

Photo Credit: Samuel Getty / Harrisburg Senators

BOWIE, Maryland – Taylor Gushue was with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs last year when he learned a boyhood dream was coming true – he was heading to the Major Leagues.

But his first game in The Show was nothing like he expected. The veteran catcher was called up due to an injury to José Lobatón, a former backstop for the Nationals.

After getting news of his call-up while in Indianapolis, Gushue flew to Chicago and then drove north to Milwaukee to join the Cubs in time for a day game.

Gushue, 28, began the game on the bench but then was pressed into service when a Cubs’ starting first baseman Patrick Wisdom suffered a minor injury in the second inning.

A native of Florida, Gushue was a standout at catcher at the University of Florida and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 4th round in 2014.

He had been a catcher his entire pro career, but he was needed at first base by Chicago manager David Ross in that game on June 30, 2021, for the Cubs at the Brewers.

“I had been a catcher my entire career,” said Gushue, sitting in the stands here on Tuesday before his Harrisburg Senators played the Bowie Baysox. “Fortunately, my manager that year, Marty Peavy (at Iowa), had the foresight to give me a couple of starts at first base so I had 10 or 12 starts there so I was pretty comfortable. And I played first in college a little bit too. But it was pretty funny – I had been a catcher for about seven years at that point in the minor leagues. But the first day in the big leagues I was playing first base.”

The Cubs lost 15-7 in a game started by Jake Arrieta. Gushue fanned in his three at-bats against the Brewers, who allowed seven runs in the top of the first but came back to win.

Gushue went 0-for-4 at the plate in two games for the Cubs then was designated for assignment on July 5, 2021.

He was sent back to Iowa three days later and became a free agent after the 2021 season.

He signed on to return to the Nationals before this season and is with Double-A Harrisburg.

In the first game of a series on Tuesday at Bowie, he hit two homers as the Senators beat the Bowie Baysox 6-5 on a night that new farm director De Jon Watson and Mark Scialabba, the former farm director who was promoted after last season, were on hand.

Also in Bowie was former coach Randy Knorr, now the roving catching instructor for the Nationals, who worked with Gushue and other catchers on framing before the game.

In games through Tuesday, the Florida native was hitting .259 with six homers and 13 RBIs in just 54 at-bats this year for the Senators.

Gushue was traded by the Pirates to the Nationals on Sept. 26, 2016, for infielder Christopher Bostick, who eventually made the majors in 2017 with the Pirates.

Gushue played in the minors for Washington from 2017-to 19, reaching Triple-A Fresno in 2019.

The minor league season was called off in 2020 due to the pandemic, then he became a free agent after that year and signed with the Cubs.

“Since I left and came back I think there have been a bunch of upgrades and I can see the winning emphasis re-ignited, I feel like, just top to bottom. It is not just at the big-league level,” Gushue said. “I think it has been amazing. Reboot or rebuild, however you want to phrase it, I think it is more than that. We are on our way to something special. It’s been great, being a part of it in 2019 playing at Triple-A, and seeing guys go up and helping the big-league squad. It was awesome to be a part of.”

Now he is helping young pitchers with the Senators on City Island in the Pennsylvania capital.

“I think just the perspective, it always helps when you have somebody with experience,” he said. “I have caught a lot of pitchers, I have seen a lot of pitches at the higher level. That is my biggest thing here, being a resource for everybody, giving them my honest feedback on how that would play at the next level. I think that is one of the best things about me being here, too. I think it is super helpful for me too.”

Harrisburg manager Tripp Keister said Gushue has been a perfect fit as he splits catching duties with Brady Lindsly, 24, a 4th-round pick of the Nationals in 2020 out of the University of Oklahoma.

“[Gushue] was with us on the way up and I had him in Potomac,” Keister said.

“Because of a backlog of catching in Triple-A, he has come down here with us and he has been vital to our young guys learning the league, pitch calling. He has taken a leadership role among the pitching staff.

“This version of him – he is in a good place. He is very comfortable here. He has really played well.”

One of the top prospects that Gushue has caught in Harrisburg is Cole Henry, who has not allowed a run in his first four starts this year.

“Cole has a special arm; he is definitely a gift from God. I just love the way Cole goes about his business. He has been very diligent about his work off the field to get him built up and in that five-inning range because we want to keep him healthy. Stuff-wise, it is just electric. He can overpower you with three different pitches, four different pitches,” Gushue said.