FORT WAYNE, Ind.–While the entire TinCaps lineup reached base in a 5-3 victory, all eyes were on the mound as number three pick MacKenzie Gore and fellow starter Mason Thompson, who piggy-backed off him, faced off against the West Michigan offense.
Gore, struggled in his second start since returning from the disabled list, allowing three runs in the top of the first. “Tonight wasn’t very good…it was better than my last start,” said Gore. “I had a rough first inning but did bounce back in the next two and put up some zeroes. That was big because we battled all night and got a win, but I have a lot of work to do, and I got to figure something out.”
In Gore’s defense, a couple of fluke plays contributed to the damage in the first, including a single that ricocheted off third base and a strike three wild pitch. Still, the bulk of the damage came off a two run homer on which Gore missed his spot terribly with the fastball.
“[My command] wasn’t what I expected out of myself,” Gore shared. “I didn’t walk anybody and it was better than the last outing, but I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
From my vantage point, it appeared as though the ball was coming out of his hand earlier or at least differently than his first outing; though, it is difficult to pinpoint whether that is the byproduct of adjusting to pitching without the blister or a young arm still working towards consistency.
Regardless of the command issues, Gore exhibited solid velocity on his fastball, sitting in the low to mid 90’s and maxing out at 95 mph. He utilized velocity variance effectively in the second and third inning with his fastball, but he became overly dependent on the pitch, failing to rely on secondary pitches to keep hitters off-balance as the game progressed.
Following Gore, 20-year-old Mason Thompson wasted no time getting to work, attacking with a flurry of fastballs to establish the zone before hammering away with his slider and curve. He struck out six Whitecaps and allowed just two runs over four scoreless innings.
Thompson’s fastball worked in the low 90s but touched 94 mph at its peak. Since a slight mechanical adjustment this offseason to reduce stress on his throwing shoulder, the 6-foot-7 Texan has seen an early dip in velocity, so it was especially encouraging to see him add a tick in this outing. As he grows more confident repeating his delivery, I would expect him to try to add back that velocity more fully and consistently.
In addition to the tweak to his delivery, Thompson integrated a slider this offseason, enabling him to give hitters another look. He did a spectacular job of mixing it tonight with a curveball that sank all the way to 70 MPH, baffling a number of righthanders in the process. While he didn’t seem particularly confident utilizing those breaking pitches against lefties, he was quite aggressive in attacking the inside of the plate on them.
There’s a lot of moving pieces and sure to be growing pains, but the tantalizing potential that garnered Thompson an early round draft pick is surfacing. He is just in dire need of consistent playing time and patience following this third straight promising performance.
“I think the more I get out there, the more comfortable I feel, especially coming back from injury last year,” said Thompson. “It gives me a lot of confidence going into this year knowing that I am going to get more opportunities to pitch and continue to compete and learn from each outing.”