MacKenzie Gore, a 2017 1st Round pick by the San Diego Padres, who’ll turn 24 later this month, was acquired by the Washington Nationals in the big trade deadline deal for Juan Soto and Josh Bell back on August 2, 2022. Gore made his major league debut in mid-April last season, posting a 4.50 ERA, a 4.12 FIP, 37 walks (4.76 BB/9), 72 strikeouts (9.26 K/9), and a .248/.346/.376 line against in 16 games, 13 starts, and 70 innings pitched for the Friars before he landed on the IL with left elbow inflammation on July 25th.
Gore got off to an impressive start in the majors, with a 1.50 ERA, a 2.20 FIP, 17 walks, 57 Ks, and a .200/.279/.241 line against in his first nine games, eight starts, and 48 IP for the Padres.
Over the seven games (and five starts) which followed, those numbers ballooned to an 11.05 ERA, 8.29 FIP, 20 walks, 15 Ks, and a .333/.454/.615 line against in 22 IP before the left elbow issue came up.
MacKenzie Gore & The Ripper...Gore.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 18, 2022
Just a whole lotta gore. pic.twitter.com/zD4UgLZo3b
The Nationals acquired the pitcher in the Soto trade knowing full well the elbow was an issue, but they were comfortable enough with what they saw to take the southpaw in the deal.
“He had a big workload early on this season that he’s never had before,” GM Mike Rizzo explained in the immediate aftermath of the franchise-altering trade.
“The injury did make things a little bit more complicated, a little bit more work, we had to do a lot of due-diligence medically,” he added.
“But there was nothing hidden and the reports and the MRIs were viewed, and the doctor gave us the thumbs up to compete the trade.
“We were happy to get him. We really see an upside, left-handed starting pitcher in the big leagues for years to come that we control for a long time.”
“It was just some discomfort, and then … it’s minor,” Gore assured reporters when he first joined the Nats.
“So yeah, everything’s fine. Just kind of building strength back and getting everything 100%, and should be fine.”
MacKenzie Gore, Dirty Sliders. pic.twitter.com/IN4ILPKwJU— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 29, 2022
Gore ended up making four starts at Triple-A Rochester in the Nats’ system, but the club, in the end, decided against bringing him back to the majors to pitch over the final weekend of the ‘22 campaign.
“My discussion with him, and my discussion with [Rizzo] is that he won’t pitch the rest of this year,” Martinez said late this past season.
“We’re going to — we liked what he’s done in the starts in the minor leagues, so rather than go out there, especially with the uncertainties of what’s going [with the weather at the time], we’re going to get him started on his winter program and get him on a strengthening program, and get him on a stamina program. So he’s going to be working with our trainers.
“Because he’s new to all this stuff and what we try to do this winter, so we want to get him started here right away.”
“I wanted to pitch,” Gore said on MASN’s Hot Stove show last month. “It was different being traded and I wasn’t throwing when I got traded, so I wanted to get back out there and that’s kind of the best way to get to know guys, but I also understood we needed to be smart. I needed to be smart. I knew why I had got to where I was, so I understood.”
Neither Gore or the Nationals felt he had anything to prove by getting back on the mound in the majors, so they took what they saw as a cautious approach with the young, controllable pitcher who figures to be part of the 2023 rotation, provided he’s healthy.
When he was, as he dominated hitters in his first big league outings with the Padres, Gore provided a glimpse of what he can do at the major league level.
“I think that’s what I’m capable of…” Gore said of the early returns in his career in the majors and the low ERA a reporter noted in those starts. “When you look at — you know ERA is not something you necessarily look at, but just the stuff that was there and the command, I was getting through 5-6-7 innings at times, so I know that I can do it at that level, so now I just need to do it for six months.”
Gore threw 60.9% fastballs in his major league outings, averaging 94.7 MPH on the pitch, which opposing hitters put up a .232 AVG on for the year.
MacKenzie Gore, Filth.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 4, 2022
5th and 6th Ks. pic.twitter.com/auPaAi0yBz
He mixed in a curveball (18.0%, 80.8 MPH, .250 BAA), a slider (15.7%, 87.4 MPH, .286 BAA), and a changeup (5.3%, 84.8 MPH, .333 BAA).
Asked to describe himself as a pitcher for anyone who didn’t see him on the way up or with the Padres last year, Gore told the MASN hosts he’s, “… a power arm, good fastballs, some hard spin. I’ll throw changeups here and there, and really — just attacking the zone, kind of even-keel on the mound demeanor-wise. I think that’s probably how I’d bottle it up.”
Though he didn’t make his Nats debut in 2022, Gore did say last month he was fully-healed and hard at work preparing for Spring Training and, hopefully, a long 2023 season.
“We’re full-go,” Gore said.
“We got healthy at the end, built up, and we just decided what we thought was right, but I’m full-go right now, treating it like a normal offseason, and I’ll be ready for spring.”