Peoria – The announcement of an agreement between owners and the Players Association on Thursday night changed the energy at the Peoria Sports Complex significantly Friday. While only a small percentage of the players on the 40-man roster made it to the facility, the promise of something like a more normal spring training and work toward the start of a big league season was palpable.
Gore wowed the staff with two sim innings on Friday. From the perspective of prospect news, MacKenzie Gore’s two simulated game innings were the clear highlight. The lefty, whose journey from the alternative site to Triple-A, back to the complex over the last two years has been a major personal and organizational challenge, announced his presence a few hours after arriving at camp.
Gore, working with the less-pronounced leg kick and revised arm slot he focused on when he rebooted last summer, showed his full arsenal, topping out his fastball at 99. The batters he faced and staff who observed all agreed: the Gore who showed up on Friday looked better than he has in a long time and can be a difference-maker in the big leagues. Of course, it was just about 35 pitches and not even officially the first day of spring training, but the organization couldn’t have hoped for a better opening statement.
Gore wasn’t the only 40-man pitcher in uniform Friday. Reiss Knehr also got in a pair of simulated innings against live hitters. The righty showed great action on his trademark changeup and broke at least one bat in his first trip to the mound.
Adrian Morejon and Michel Baez, both working back from Tommy John surgery last spring, threw bullpen sessions. Neither has reached the one-year mark in their recovery, and they’re unlikely to be ready for game action until later in the spring. Morejon, who turned 23 last month and still hasn’t thrown 200 total professional innings since signing in 2016, remains an incredibly interesting wildcard for the organization.
For the 180 minor league players who have been in camp for the last week or more, things proceeded more or less as normal. Victor Lizarraga, Matt Waldron and Riley Yeatman were among the 20-plus pitchers who got in work in a pair of scrimmage games and a nine-inning affair against a barnstorming team.
Lizarraga, who could open the year in Lake Elsinore, sat in the low-90s and worked with a pair of breaking balls that worked well in the zone. He showed confidence in his changeup as well, showing an advanced approach for an 18-year-old. Lefties Osvaldo Hernandez and Ramon Perez each got a pair of innings against the travelling club that mostly featured Japanese professionals.
Hernandez continues to work with a diverse repertoire and could be a big league bullpen contributor. Kobe Robinson finished up the game with a strong inning. The righty, a 13th-rounder out of community college and the draft league last summer, shows vicious movement on his fastball and slider from a whipsaw delivery. He’s a name to watch as a pure reliever.
We got our first look at Corey Rosier in a Padres uniform. The 22-year-old outfielder acquired from Seattle in the Adam Frazier trade over the winter led off the game against a collection of pitchers looking to land independent league or international deals. The left-handed hitter tracked pitches well and drew a walk while looking strong on the basepaths. He should join a talented outfield in Fort Wayne to open the year.