Padres: Is MacKenzie Gore going to fill Matt Strahm’s role this year?

(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /

After having back-to-back days with injuries in the bullpen, might the Padres consider MacKenzie Gore for the bullpen? What does that look like?

We are going to see some unusual things in the upcoming 60-game slate for the Padres. A major question throughout spring training, which has carried over into summer camp: how was Jayce Tingler going to ensure everyone gets their fair share of playing time? Now magnified over a shortened season, the Padres took a blow to their bullpen.

On Thursday, reliever Jose Castillo was diagnosed with a lat strain and will reportedly be out at least six weeks. Then on Friday, Trey Wingenter left with elbow “irritation,” which is never a good thing and usually results in a serious operation. Let’s hope for the best on that front, but while the Padres bullpen remains a strength, there’s no question that playing time has opened up.

And with a rotation that is mostly set, MacKenzie Gore‘s playing time was a bit of an unknown this year, but he was expected to make his big league debut in some fashion. But barring an injury within the starting staff, Gore would either have to benefit from a six-man rotation or potentially be utilized in the bullpen.

After Castillo and Wingenter’s injuries, might it make sense for Gore to pitch from the bullpen this year? Before the torches come, hear me out.

I use the word bullpen loosely because Gore could effectively be used as a starter, just limited to two or three innings on days that starters last only four or five innings. I liken his role to Matt Strahm, who made 46 appearances – including 16 starts – and spun a 4.71 ERA, fanning 118 batters over 114.2 innings last year.

His splits as a reliever were much better, 3.27 ERA versus a 5.29 ERA as a starter. Still, of his 30 appearances from the bullpen, Strahm tossed more than one inning on nine occasions. Sixteen times he tossed just one inning of work, and the remaining five appearances consisted of less than one frame.

All the reports from Summer Camp are that Gore has had a difficult time adjusting, which is understandable, given that he has just five Double-A starts to his name. So, there could be some benefit of the 21-year-old pitching solely from the bullpen in 2020 and could offer a better situation for him long-term.

What do I mean by the situation?

With no minor league season this year, less could be more for Gore in 2020 as he adjusts to life in the majors, and if all goes well, he would be stretched out to join the rotation next year. Joey Lucchesi has had a difficult time pitching beyond the fifth inning, with a 7.94 ERA coming in the sixth inning in his career.

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There could be a viable scenario where Lucchesi pitches four or five innings, and then Gore comes in for two or three, depending on the opposing lineup, of course. The righty/lefty split “starts” would seem to offer another attractive solution, as a means to keep the opposition off-balance. The possibilities are essentially endless.