Despite stamina issues, Gore wants to make start for Nats

MacKenzie Gore was back in the clubhouse at Nationals Park this afternoon, back from his fourth rehab start with Triple-A Rochester, fully acknowledging the outcome from his most recent start (six runs, six hits, three homers allowed in 3 2/3 innings) didn’t look great on paper.

“It’s tough. You look at the line last night, it looks like a bad outing,” the left-hander said. “But it’s really just the fourth that was bad.”

Indeed, a closer examination of Gore’s start against Worcester confirms all his troubles came in his final inning of work. When he walked off the mound at the end of the third, he had allowed only one of the 10 batters he had faced to that point to reach (a leadoff homer in the second). He had three strikeouts. He threw 27 of 39 pitches for strikes.

The fourth inning, though, was a mess for Gore. He issued his lone walk of the night. He gave up five extra-base hits, two of them homers. He threw only 18 of 33 pitches for strikes. And he was pulled before completing the inning, his total pitch count up to 72.

“I feel fine. I just haven’t built up as quickly as I thought I would,” he said. “The first three innings were good. The fourth, I just kind of ran out of gas.”

Which raises the question of what the Nationals do now with Gore, who was acquired from the Padres on Aug. 2 while already on the 15-day injured list with left elbow inflammation. The plan was to make sure he makes at least one major league start before season’s end. Though that’s not set in stone yet, it does appear to remain the plan.

“I think he can,” manager Davey Martinez said. “But I want to make sure he throws his bullpen, and we’ll see how he feels then.”

Gore is slated to throw what Martinez termed an “extended” bullpen session in the coming days, focusing on using his legs more and, hopefully, building up more stamina. The Nats will need an extra start for one of Saturday’s doubleheader games against the Phillies, and that lines up perfectly with Gore’s throwing session, so that seems to remain the most likely outcome.

If it means the team has to limit Gore to three innings and not risk him getting fatigued, that will be taken into consideration.

“Yeah, that could be enough,” the pitcher said. “It’s not going to be six, I can tell you that. We’ll see where we’re at.”

The primary message Gore wants to get across is that his arm feels healthy, with no lingering concerns about his elbow. It’s simply about stamina at this point.

“The good thing for me is, he is pitching, he’s on the mound, he is competing,” Martinez said. “And everything so far has gone right, except for the fact it is taking him a little longer to bounce back in that third or fourth inning. That will come. I’m not too worried about that. For me, it’s just making sure when he leaves this season, he feels completely healthy and we can get him ready for spring training.”

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