Gallo to stay at first base as Rosario gets look in center field

Joey Gallo 2024 picture day

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The notion that the Nationals signed Joey Gallo to be their primary left fielder, taking advantage not only of his power potential but also his Gold Glove arm? That doesn’t appear to be part of the plan anymore.

The combination of Gallo’s sore quad this spring and the recent signings of Eddie Rosario and Jesse Winker have convinced manager Davey Martinez to use Gallo primarily at first base for now.

“I think right now the idea is to keep Gallo at first base, and DH him at times, too,” Martinez said. “Especially now that he had this little tweak of his quad. We’ll try to keep him out of the outfield for now. Who knows what’s going to happen in the future, but I want him to be healthy before we even put him in the outfield.”

Gallo played his eighth game of the spring Thursday night, his fifth at first base. He served as designated hitter the other three times. He opened camp splitting workout time between the outfielders and infielders, but in recent weeks has worked exclusively at first base, this after missing several days with the quad injury.

Signed in January for $5 million to bring some much-needed power to a Nationals lineup that ranked last in the National League in homers last season, Gallo also was touted for his defensive ability in the outfield. He won the Gold Glove Award in both 2020 and 2021 and has spoken many times about the pride he takes in being a good defensive player.

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Davies tries to make his case for spot in Nats' rotation

Zach Davies Dbacks red away

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Zach Davies hasn’t been in this position in a while, pitching in spring training not to get ready for his team but to make his team.

Such is life on a minor league contract, and such is the dilemma facing Davies this month as he tries to convince the Nationals to include him on their Opening Day roster.

“In years past, having a secured job, the things that run through your mind are you’re still probably trying to work on something,” the 31-year-old right-hander said. “There’s times within a game that’s your focus. And then there’s a couple innings in there where you’re going to try to go after guys and be game-like. For me, I feel like you have to mix all that into every at-bat at this point. Just because I’m not on the roster and I’m still trying to make the team. Try and be competitive every time I’m out there.”

Davies said all this minutes after he departed tonight’s game at CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches, having just allowed two runs over five innings during the Nats’ 5-3 exhibition victory over the Astros. It wasn’t exactly a masterpiece – Houston collected seven hits and a walk, and Davies needed 89 pitches to complete his five frames – but it was hard to argue with the final results.

And results are what matter most to Davies right now.

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Ferrer has lat injury, Rutledge will start "Spring Breakout" game

Jose A. Ferrer chery blossom

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – One of the four left-handers competing for spots in the Nationals’ Opening Day bullpen is dealing with a physical setback that could hurt his chances.

Jose A. Ferrer hasn’t pitched in six days due to an issue with his lat muscle, manager Davey Martinez revealed today. It’s unclear when he’ll be ready to return to the mound.

“He’s got a little bit of a lat thing going on,” Martinez said. “I’ll know more about what’s going on with him in the next day or two.”

Ferrer has made only three game appearances this spring, two of them coming during the first week of Grapefruit League play on Feb. 26 and Feb. 29. He then sat eight days before his next appearance March 8, when he tossed two scoreless innings but apparently was already dealing with some discomfort. He hasn’t pitched since.

“It’s been bothering him,” Martinez said. “We’ll see.”

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Starting lineups: Nats vs. Astros in West Palm Beach

abrams k @BAL

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – We’ve got another night game here, and the Nationals will field a lineup worthy of playing under the lights. It’s all regulars for Davey Martinez (if you count Jesse Winker as a regular), with some interesting nuggets in there.

Keibert Ruiz is catching back-to-back days for the first time this spring, having already been behind the plate Wednesday against the Marlins. And Eddie Rosario, who made his debut in left field Wednesday, is starting in center field tonight. The 32-year-old has played only 58 of his 1,030 career major league games in center, and most of those came in 2016-17 with the Twins, but Martinez has suggested he could be an option there for the Nats, which would be an interesting way to get everyone in the lineup (at the expense of Victor Robles).

Zach Davies is tonight’s starting pitcher, and you would think the veteran right-hander needs to start showing something if he wants to force his way into the Opening Day rotation. Davies tossed two scoreless innings (albeit with two walks and a hit batter) in his debut, but then gave up three runs in 3 1/3 innings his last time out. We’ll see how he handles the Astros’ lineup.

CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach
Gametime: 6:05 p.m.
TV: None
Weather: Partly cloudy, 78 degrees, wind 11 mph in from right field

SS CJ Abrams
RF Lane Thomas
LF Jesse Winker
DH Joey Meneses
1B Joey Gallo
C Keibert Ruiz
CF Eddie Rosario
3B Nick Senzel
2B Luis García Jr.

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Strong spring showings create some tough pitching decisions

Robert Garcia city connect jersey

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Spring training stats must be taken with more than a grain of salt. Perhaps a full bucket of salt.

Now, having said that, has anyone out there noticed how well the Nationals have pitched this spring?

Wednesday’s 2-1 exhibition victory over the Marlins was merely the latest example. That came on the heels of a 4-1 victory over the Mets. Combine the pitching totals from those two games and the Nats have surrendered a grand total of two runs on six hits, walking only three while striking out 14.

And this has been going on for 2 1/2 weeks now. Eighteen games into their Grapefruit League schedule, the Nationals rank second in the majors in ERA (3.51), WHIP (1.164) and opponents’ batting average (.224), third in walks per nine innings (3.0), fourth in home runs surrendered per nine innings (0.68) and fifth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.1).

There’s a lot to like about the way the entire staff has pitched to date, especially a number of guys who are competing for spots on the Opening Day roster.

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Irvin gets message and flips switch; Kieboom outrighted to Triple-A

irvin city v SFG

JUPITER, Fla. – After getting roughed up by the Astros to the tune of seven runs in 1 2/3 innings two weeks ago, Jake Irvin was approached by Nationals manager Davey Martinez, who asked what happened. Irvin informed his manager he was “working on stuff,” the insinuation there that he wasn’t approaching hitters the way he normally would in a regular season game.

The message Martinez shot back at the 27-year-old: Don’t do that.

“Work on the stuff you need to work on, but do it in the bullpen,” Martinez said. “When you’re in the game, you’re here to compete. I need you to forget about everything and start getting some outs. And he took it to heart.”

That’s putting it mildly. In two starts since that regrettable March 1 outing, Irvin has flipped the switch and pitched like these games were taking place in mid-September, not mid-March.

With five scoreless innings today on a scant 52 pitches, Irvin led the Nationals to a 2-1 exhibition win over the Marlins. Combined with his previous appearance against the Mets, the right-hander has now tossed nine scoreless innings, allowing three hits and zero walks while striking out 10 since getting that all-important message from his manager.

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Hassell has groin strain but not expected to miss much time

Robert Hassell III spring training

JUPITER, Fla. – Robert Hassell III is likely to open the season on the injured list after an MRI revealed a strain of his groin, but it doesn’t appear the Nationals outfield prospect will miss significant time.

Hassell injured himself March 8, able to play only one inning in the field, pulled before he could take an at-bat. He has been sidelined since, getting the MRI on Tuesday.

Manager Davey Martinez didn’t want to suggest a timetable for Hassell to return but acknowledged the 22-year-old will need to miss “a little time.”

“But he feels good,” Martinez added. “He’s going to just do some strengthening stuff, and hopefully we get him ready as soon as possible.”

The strain does not appear to be serious, because Hassell hasn’t been shut down altogether. He played catch Tuesday in West Palm Beach and was scheduled to hit off a tee today.

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Starting lineups: Nats vs. Marlins in Jupiter

Trey Lipscomb spring training

JUPITER, Fla. – The Nationals have a quick turnaround from Tuesday night’s game against the Mets to this afternoon’s game against the Marlins. That might explain why there are so many kids in Davey Martinez’s lineup. (Most veterans aren’t going to be asked to play spring training day games after night games.)

The good news is that we get to see James Wood, Dylan Crews and Trey Lipscomb all in the same lineup. Lipscomb, who started at second base Tuesday night, moves to third base today. Crews, it should be noted, is mired in a bit of a funk at the plate. He’s 0 for his last 8 with one walk and six strikeouts. Wood, meanwhile, is 2 for his last 13 after beginning the spring 9-for-19.

Jake Irvin gets the start for the Nats, hoping to build off a strong outing his last time on the mound. The right-hander shut out the Mets over four innings last week, striking out five without walking anybody. He’s probably assured of a spot in the Opening Day rotation, but another start like that would probably seal the deal.

Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, Jupiter
Gametime: 1:10 p.m.
TV: None
Radio: 980 AM,
Weather: Partly cloudy, 79 degrees, wind 8 mph right field to left field

LF Jacob Young
RF James Wood
DH Jesse Winker
C Keibert Ruiz
2B Luis García Jr.
SS Ildemaro Vargas
3B Trey Lipscomb
CF Dylan Crews
1B Juan Yepez

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Rizzos found charity organization to benefit D.C. children

Mike Rizzo

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Mike Rizzo spent the first half of his professional life roaming every corner of the United States and beyond in search of young baseball talent. He’s spent the second half of that professional life staying in one place, making Washington his home during his 18 years working for the Nationals, the last 15 as general manager.

Along the way, as he realized how much D.C. had become home to him and his family, Rizzo decided he wanted to give something back to the city he now lovingly calls home.

“I’m so humbled and grateful every day,” he said. “I was an area scout and grinded it out for a long time to appreciate where I’m at right now. I’ve been blessed in my career and in my life – I’ve made enough money where I can help out the less fortunate – and I married a woman who wanted to do the same thing. We kind of teamed this thing up to leave a mark. I think the city deserves for me to give something back to them, since they’ve given so much to me.”

Thus was The Rizzo Family Foundation – aka “Riz Kids” – born. A new nonprofit organization created by Mike and Jodi Rizzo, it intends to champion educational equity and invest in D.C. children and their families through community grants, college scholarships and opportunities to experience special baseball events.

The idea came to the Rizzos sometime in 2020, after Mike’s sister Kim died of ALS. The birth of the couple’s son, Sonny, last year helped further push them to create the foundation, which officially launched this week.

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Gore avoids big inning, Barnes has strong debut, Lipscomb triples

gore pitches blue

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – An admitted perfectionist, MacKenzie Gore is the kind of guy who tends to get caught up with the things he didn’t do well on a particular night and forget about the things he did do well.

So it was appropriate to wonder tonight if the Nationals left-hander might be hung up on the ragged top of the fourth he experienced against the Mets instead of focusing on the top of the first, second, third, fifth and sixth innings, all of which went splendidly for him.

The good news: Gore was in a much better mood than you might have surmised based on his history.

“It was good,” he said. “Look, the stuff, we’re going in the right direction.”

Gore was quite good tonight, tossing 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball and setting the tone on a night the Nats pitching staff combined to two-hit the Mets in a 4-1 exhibition victory. He retired the first nine batters he faced on a scant 32 pitches. He became not only the first member of the staff to complete five innings this spring but re-took the mound for the top of the sixth because his pitch count was so low.

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García, Robles get muted vote of confidence from Rizzo

Luis Garcia spring training

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – With less than two weeks remaining in spring training, the two members of the Nationals’ projected lineup most in danger of losing their jobs got a muted vote of confidence from general manager Mike Rizzo, who nonetheless made it clear he needs to see more improvement from Luis García Jr. and Victor Robles.

García and Robles came to camp with an edict from club officials to show long-sought improvement, told they would be pushed by others in search of their starting jobs over the course of the spring. Each has enjoyed some success at the plate – García is 8-for-29 with two doubles and a homer, Robles is 6-for-18 with a homer and three walks – but each has come under some criticism following fundamental mistakes.

Asked about both García, 23, and Robles, 26, this afternoon, Rizzo expressed disappointment in those mistakes while also acknowledging their relative inexperience.

“I think they’re playing hard, they’re playing well,” Rizzo said. “We have to eliminate the mental lapses and the mental mistakes. But when you think about it, they’re both still young men chronologically. Although they seem like they’ve been here forever, they’re still young people. Luis is still 23 years old. If they didn’t have ability, obviously you wouldn’t be putting up with the mental mistakes that they make. But they have a lot of ability. They’ve shown it in the past at this level. We just have to get them over that, because that’s not helping the team.”

García in particular came under fire last week after committing errors on back-to-back plays, then getting picked off first base the following day.

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Starting lineups: Nats vs. Mets in West Palm Beach

gore pitches white

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – We tend to think of spring training as a daytime exercise, with players reporting to the ballpark at the crack of dawn for workouts, playing a few innings in the early afternoon and then heading out early enough to play nine holes before sunset. But this final stretch of Nationals camp includes a ton of night games: Seven of them over the next 12 days (including three of the next four) to be precise.

Tonight the Nats host the Mets under the lights in West Palm Beach, with MacKenzie Gore on the mound. The left-hander makes only his third official start of the spring, his first in 11 days. (In between, he threw on a back field.) Gore should be good for at least four innings tonight, and he’ll be facing a Mets lineup that includes Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso and Starling Marte.

Most of the Nationals’ regulars are in the lineup, many of them playing for the second straight day. That includes Eddie Rosario, who after debuting as DH on Monday will start in left field tonight. Joey Meneses gets the nod at first base, with Joey Gallo assuming DH duties. Riley Adams, remarkably, is catching his first home game of the spring. And Trey Lipscomb gets a chance to start at second base surrounded by veterans, an interesting twist.

We’ll also see Matt Barnes coming out of the bullpen to make his Nationals debut, two weeks after he agreed to a minor league deal with the team.

CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach
Gametime: 6:05 p.m. EST
TV: None
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Partly cloudy, 75 degrees, wind 10 mph in from right field

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Is there room for both Rosario and Winker on Nats roster?

Eddie Rosario Braves jersey

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – In his first at-bat as a member of the Nationals, Eddie Rosario didn’t drive the ball out of the park. He didn’t rip a line drive to center for a base hit. He hit a little dribbler toward short, one that left his bat at a not-so-scalding 49.9 mph. And then busted down the line.

By the time Cardinals shortstop Brandon Crawford charged in to field the ball and throw to first, Rosario had already crossed the bag, throwing his arms out in a “safe” motion as he looked to first base umpire Jen Pawol, who made the same (in her case, official) call.

The expected batting average on such a grounder? A measly .110. Rosario, suffice it to say, beat the odds with his hustle.

“That’s what I know about him,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s going to play the game the right way, play the game hard. It was good to see him come out in the first game and do what he did.”

That was the only time Rosario reached base in his Nats debut Monday afternoon. He finished 1-for-3 with the infield single, a popout to second and a well-struck fly out to left. It was a fairly nondescript performance, but not shabby given the fact the 32-year-old just signed a minor league contract five days prior.

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Corbin finds positives and negatives in start; Ward optioned to Triple-A

corbin pitches blue

JUPITER, Fla. – We’ve reached the point of spring training where it’s appropriate to start looking more at results, though perhaps not enough to start reading too much into them.

What, then, to make of Patrick Corbin’s start this afternoon during the Nationals’ 11-4 exhibition win over the Cardinals? The left-hander gave up three runs on six hits and two walks, all while throwing a whopping 74 pitches in only 3 2/3 innings. But he also notched six strikeouts, four of those coming on his newly developed cutter.

“Obviously, you want good results,” Corbin said. “The first inning, to throw – what, 30 pitches? – is not ideal. But it’s going to happen at some point in the season. It’s not what you’re trying to do, but sometimes just try to see how you bounce back from that.”

Corbin did bounce back from a ragged opening frame, retiring five of the last six batters he faced. And the fact six of his eight total outs came via strikeout has to be encouraging for someone who has seen his strikeout rate plummet over the last six years from 11.1 to 6.2 per nine innings.

Corbin now has 16 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings this spring, which equates to 11.7 per nine. And many of those are coming on the pitch he is currently adding to his repertoire and producing positive results to date.

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Young starters, Alu among Nats' first cuts; Hassell getting MRI

Jake Alu infield blue away

JUPITER, Fla. – It took nearly four weeks, but the Nationals finally made their first round of cuts this morning, removing seven players from their spring training roster, the majority of them young starting pitchers who weren’t going to get the innings they needed had they remained in big league camp.

Right-handers Joan Adon, Cole Henry and Amos Willingham, left-handers DJ Herz and Mitchell Parker and infielder Jake Alu all were optioned to Triple-A Rochester. Outfielder Travis Blankenhorn, who isn’t on the 40-man roster, was reassigned to minor league camp.

Adon, Henry, Herz and Parker all could figure into the Nationals’ rotation plans over the course of the season, the latter three hoping to make their major league debuts. Adon has spent parts of the last three years in the majors as a fill-in starter.

“I really wanted to see some of these young guys pitch up here, and for the most part I saw some really good things,” manager Davey Martinez said. “But it’s time to get these guys stretched out and get them on a regular routine.”

Herz joined the organization last summer, acquired from the Cubs along with infielder Kevin Made for Jeimer Candelario in the Nats’ lone trade deadline deal. The 23-year-old lefty impressed in eight starts at Double-A Harrisburg down the stretch, then pitched in the Arizona Fall League and was added to the 40-man roster over the winter.

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Starting lineups: Nats vs. Cardinals in Jupiter

Keibert Ruiz swing blue away

JUPITER, Fla. – And we’re back! Yes, after a nice little break at home, I’ve returned to Florida for the remainder of spring training. My thanks to Bobby Blanco (who, inexplicably, is still at the airport in Fort Myers waiting to fly home) for a great week of coverage in my absence.

We’ve got some news on this Monday morning at Nationals camp. The team finally made its first round of cuts, optioning Joan Adon, Jake Alu, Cole Henry, DJ Herz, Mitchell Parker and Amos Willingham to Triple-A Rochester and reassigning Travis Blankenhorn to minor league camp. More on all that in a little while.

Today’s lineup, meanwhile, features Eddie Rosario making his Nats debut, though only as designated hitter for now. Joey Gallo returns to play the field for the first time since Feb. 28, when he hurt his left quadriceps muscle. The only projected regular not in there is Joey Meneses, so this may be the closest thing we’ve seen to an Opening Day lineup yet this spring.

Patrick Corbin gets the start, the left-hander’s fourth start of the spring, his third at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, his second against the Cardinals. He’ll be opposed by veteran right-hander Miles Mikolas.

Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, Jupiter

Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EST
TV: (Cardinals feed)
Weather: Sunny, 75 degrees, wind 12 mph in from center field

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Prospect Lile suffers scary back injury in Nats' exhibition loss

Josiah Gray blue road

FORT MYERS, Fla. – As the top of the seventh ended and the crowd at JetBlue Park rose to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” the kids came jogging out of the Nationals dugout. A host of top prospects, including several called up for the day from minor league camp, made the long bus ride over from West Palm Beach for a chance to play a few innings in a Grapefruit League game.

Brady House, the club’s 2021 first-round pick, was at third base. Elijah Green, the club’s 2022 first-round pick, was in center field, having just replaced Dylan Crews, the club’s 2023 first-round pick.

And in right field was Daylen Lile, the club’s 2021 second-round pick who may not draw the same attention as the others but is touted by some evaluators both inside and outside the organization as just as good – if not better – than the rest.

This should have been a moment for the Nationals to cherish. Instead, eternal optimism morphed into fear and concern instantaneously as Lile flipped over the short wall in deep right-center trying to rob a home run and landed on his back in the Red Sox bullpen.

Everything else that happened during the Nats’ 4-2 loss to Boston – most notably Josiah Gray’s second straight strong start – felt secondary in that moment. Still stunned after the game ended, manager Davey Martinez did offer up a relatively optimistic update on Lile, who was taken to a local hospital for a CAT scan of his lower back.

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Garrett taking ABs in scrimmages, still aiming for Opening Day

Stone Garrett grays

FORT MYERS, Fla. – When camp opened, manager Davey Martinez was adamant Stone Garrett had a realistic chance of making the Nationals’ Opening Day roster and completing his comeback from the gruesome leg and ankle injury he suffered in August. As the calendar turns to March and Garrett has yet to make his game debut this spring, has that outlook changed?

Not at all, Martinez insisted today.

“I’m still optimistic that he can do it,” the manager said prior to today’s exhibition game against the Red Sox. “He’s working really hard. Probably the next 10-12 days are going to really determine where he’s at. They’re pushing him, and he wants to be pushed.”

Garrett, who broke his left fibula and injured his ankle making a leaping catch at the wall Aug. 23 at Yankee Stadium, has been participating in most morning drills this spring but has not appeared in a Grapefruit League contest yet.

The 28-year-old outfielder did recently start taking at-bats and running the bases in minor league intrasquad scrimmages, which have started up on the back fields behind CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches.

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Starting lineups: Nats vs. Red Sox in Fort Myers

James Wood spring training 2

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Hello from JetBlue Park, aka “Fenway South.” The Nationals are making one of two cross-state trips today, this time to face the Red Sox. They’ll return to the area in eight days to face the Twins. And they brought some very intriguing names with them on the 2 1/2-hour bus ride.

James Wood and Dylan Crews are both in today’s lineup, Crews in center field while Wood serves as DH. Robert Hassell III, Brady House and Trey Lipscomb are all here and scheduled to come off the bench. And then there are three call-ups from minor league camp who came along as well: Elijah Green, Yohandy Morales and Daylen Lile. Hopefully, we get to see them at some point.

Josiah Gray is the starter on the mound, making his second start of the spring. The right-hander was really sharp in his debut against the Mets, striking out five across two scoreless innings. He’ll try to build up to three innings this afternoon against a Boston lineup that includes Rafael Devers, Trevor Story and Masataka Yoshida.

A quick programming note: I’m heading home after today’s game for a short break. Bobby Blanco is down here and will have you covered all week, so be sure to read his work (including a feature story this morning about Jacob Young) on the site.

JetBlue Park, Fort Myers

Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EST
TV: (Red Sox feed)
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 81 degrees, wind 10 mph out to left field

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Gore remains sharp, Irvin struggles in relief, Abrams homers

MacKenzie Gore city connect

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – MacKenzie Gore isn’t quite established enough to ignore spring training results, but neither is he devoid of any track record and thus feels the need to make a statement when he takes the mound this time of year in Florida.

Gore is unquestionably part of the Nationals’ Opening Day rotation, perhaps someday in the near future the guy leading that rotation into a season. So these spring training outings are about two things: building his arm up and emerging healthy.

“I feel good, that’s the biggest thing,” the 25-year-old left-hander said this afternoon. “Not as sharp today, but it was good. We got into some situations and could see what we wanted to use. But I feel good, that’s really the most important thing.”

Oh, by the way, Gore was also successful in the results department, tossing three scoreless innings on 43 pitches during what became a 10-8 loss to the Astros.

Only two Houston batters reached base against Gore: Jake Meyers via a leadoff walk in the second, Grae Kessinger via a leadoff bloop single in the third. Neither advanced beyond first base, with Kessinger wiped out by an inning-ending double play in the third.

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