Mackenzie Gore of the national team is also a perfectionist in spring training


JUPITER, FL. — Here’s McKenzie Gore, the talented Washington Nationals left-hander, going against the grain after the third start of a spring crucial to his career and the future of his franchise: “I’m going to try. to be positive”.

It may not be in his nature.

“He’s a perfectionist,” said his new manager, Dave Martinez, who barely knows him, but he’s got it. strong effect. “He can be a little hard on himself. … Trying to get him to stick to the process and not get too fired up when he makes a bad move.”

So, about a four-pitch walk to open Tuesday’s start against the Miami Marlins.

“Yes,” Gore said. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

Gore is 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds, lean, lean and athletic. It has the body of an original pitcher and the air of an original pitcher. His health and his performance — in that order — will have far more to determine whether the Nats’ upcoming season will be successful than any number of wins and losses. So her introduction to her new fan base should include: She has standards for herself, and if she doesn’t meet them, she won’t be happy.

“I expect to do things right,” Gore said. “Sometimes I find out what I’m doing wrong before I know what’s right. I expect things to be done right, [to] be really good. When things aren’t really going well, I have to figure out what’s wrong.”

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It’s not a bad attitude as long as he doesn’t try to hit himself too often and with too much force. Gore’s streak in a 5-3 win over the Marlins was remarkable: In three innings, he allowed three hits and two runs, only one earned. He ran past the onrushing attacker and only hit one. It’s a process, as tiring as it is to hear, to build up to the fullness and scale of a major league season. Neither Gore nor the Nats’ futures were in jeopardy in front of a partial crowd of 2,271 at Roger Dean Stadium. It may still matter.

“We have some work to do,” Gore said.

This is work to find out what he can be, what he can be must to be When Gore’s name and his belongings become topics of conversation around the Nationals camp, the sentences are delivered with something of polite reverence.

“I mean, he can get you out of four pitches,” CJ Abrams said.

“Throwing 95 plus lefties with a good team?” said leftist Patrick Corbyn.

Not a bad place to start. His stuff, in general – how is it?

“Oh God,” pitching coach Jim Hickey said.

“You start with the fastball,” catcher Riley Adams said. “It’s an electric field, it can find highs, lows, anything.”

One of the best aspects of spring training is hearing baseball people talk baseball when the stakes are so low. The big part of Gore’s outing was that he easily got through three innings on just 35 pitches, finishing a 50-pitch day with 15 strikeouts. His fastball got away from him, and Martinez said Gore has some mechanical work to do with Hickey to fix it before his next start. It’s all right. That’s what we came for.

The rest of the time can be filled with talk about what’s possible for this kid and the others the Nats have collected. No guarantee, though maybe.

So start with the fastball.

“We have the ability to measure these things, and everyone talks about vertical discontinuity and blah, blah, blah,” Hickey said. “But if it was 20 years ago, before you knew if it had 18 inches or 22 inches of induced vertical break, you’d just say, ‘That fastball is going to bounce.’ Live broadcast. It should be taken to him. It’s over.’ That’s the first thing that jumps out at me.”

During Tuesday’s walk-off, the center field scoreboard showed Gore’s fastball consistently clocked at 94 mph, sometimes higher — capable of producing multiple strikes at the top of the strike zone. That sets up a changeup he’s committed to using more of Tuesday, and it’s produced a swing and a soft ground ball. That’s combined with a curveball that can get buried in the dirt, making it difficult for hitters to defend against if they’re worried about the heater going up. It is combined with a bite slider at the bottom of the area.

“Going out there and having four guns is a big deal,” Gore said.

True. But using them – along with his emotions – is as big deal.

“You saw it,” Martinez said. “He’s going to get all bent out of shape. We need to understand it to calm it down a bit.”

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If the Nationals wanted to trade Juan Soto last summer — and the phrase “trade Juan Soto” still isn’t something you can randomly type — then they should have gotten high-end prospects instead. As such, the buzz in camp isn’t centered around heroes who have achieved something in the majors, but rather those who can produce in the future when the Nats can contend again.

Gore, who turned 24 last month and has all 13 major league starts and 70 major league innings under his belt, falls right into that camp. Although he hasn’t pitched in the majors since arriving in the Soto trade from San Diego due to elbow issues, he’s an attractive and unique facet of the 2023 Nationals. He puts pressure on himself to be perfect. The Nationals are keeping a close eye on him.

“In this particular case, regardless of what he’s done in the past, we have to be a little bit more cautious about him going forward,” Hickey said. “Let’s say the full season was 33 starts. This is very high up unlikely – and that would be by design.”

It should be remembered. Progress should be measured not by how good it is one day, but by where it is at each step. The child will take steps to great things.

“He’s a great candidate to be a really, really good major league pitcher for a long time,” Hickey said. “And it’s fun to watch.”

Like a process involving some self-immolation. Leaning against a wall outside the visitors’ club on Tuesday, Gore reflected on his journey.

“Thirty-five pitches in three innings,” he said, Good.”

It was fine, he assured himself. But what if 35 pitches in three innings came without four pitches and a steady fastball to open the game? That’s what Mackenzie Gore expected of herself. One day we will have to wait for him too.

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