The Detroit Tigers may have found an answer to their late-inning struggles. Former outfielder turned reliever Anthony Gose made his minor-league pitching debut on Monday, and showed a much livelier arm than expected.
— Dan Lauer (@Dan_Lauer41) May 23, 2017
That’s right, in his first official pitching appearance, the 26-year-old Gose hit 99 mph with his fastball. Gose pitched an inning during his debut. He allowed one run on one hit during the frame. Gose also walked a batter and notched his first strikeout.
It was a positive development for a guy who hit just .240/.309/.348 over five seasons in the majors. Because of those struggles, Gose decided to make the conversion to the mound in March.
While he hasn’t pitched in quite some time, the move wasn’t uncharted territory for Gose. He excelled as a pitcher in high school, reportedly hitting 97 mph off the mound. ESPN’s Keith Law thought Gose’s ability as a pitcher surpassed his skills at the plate.
The long layoff means Gose is incredibly raw, but that might not matter. The Tigers’ 4.92 reliever ERA ranks 28th in the majors. Many of the team’s relievers find themselves in disarray at the moment.
Francisco Rodriguez opened the year as the team’s closer, but already lost his job after posting a 7.16 ERA over 16 1/3 innings. Veteran Anibal Sanchez was expected to take on a long reliever role, but was sent to the minors after putting up a 9.00 ERA in 21 innings.
That opens the door for Gose to potentially contribute at some point this year. Though he doesn’t have much professional experience, the fact that he’s already 26 could motivate the Tigers to be aggressive with him.
Should Gose reach the majors, he wouldn’t be the first position player turned pitcher to appear in a game this season. San Diego Padres catcher Christian Bethancourt attempted to take on a dual role with the club this season. He appeared in eight games as a catcher, and was also used as a reliever four times. After posting a 14.73 ERA in 3 2/3 innings, the Padres sent Bethancourt to Triple-A to focus on pitching full-time.
It’s unclear whether the Tigers will employ Gose in a similar manner. Manager Brad Ausmus mentioned Gose would still be used as a position player when he was sent down in March, but that may have changed. Gose was assigned to the Lakeland Tigers prior to Monday’s game, so he hasn’t had the opportunity to play the field just yet.
Based on his promising debut, maybe that’s for the best. While Gose still faces an uphill battle if he wants to return to the majors, there’s always going to be a high demand for lefties who can reach 99 mph with their fastballs.
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