Gore's elbow healthy, but lefty still battling command on rehab

As he makes his way back from the injured list, MacKenzie Gore’s biggest challenge doesn’t appear to be the health of his left arm but the sharpness of his pitches.

Gore made his second rehab start for Triple-A Rochester on Friday night, and though he emerged healthy, he did have some trouble keeping the ball over the plate: Only 32 of the lefty’s 57 pitches were strikes.

“When you’re out for a while, part of the rehab is getting yourself back in rhythm,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said. “The first inning was very clean, they said. The second inning was clean; he walked a batter. And then the third inning is when it really became an issue.”

Indeed, Gore threw 25-of-40 pitches for strikes during his first two innings of work, then threw only 7-of-17 for strikes in the third before getting pulled.

“That could be just a little bit fatigued, not staying on his legs,” Martinez said. “That could easily be corrected by going out there and continuing to build up. But we’ll get him back here. He talked with (pitching coach Jim) Hickey about some of the things he wants to continue to work on in the bullpen, so he’ll come back and work on those things, and we’ll get him back out there.”

The good news: Gore didn’t surrender a run. And according to Martinez, his fastball velocity was consistently 94-96 mph. That’s right in line with his season average with the Padres prior to landing on the 15-day injured list with elbow inflammation in late July.

And in throwing 57 pitches – slightly more than anticipated entering the game – Gore continued to show his arm is strong. Now he just needs to start refining his pitches, which the Nationals will hope he does in his next rehab start, after which they’ll need to decide if he’s ready to be activated and make his club debut before season’s end or not.

“That’s good. That tells me his arm felt pretty good,” Martinez said of Gore’s workload. “He could’ve gotten fatigued, because the inning was a little longer.”

* Nelson Cruz is once again sitting with inflammation in his left eye. It’s the third straight game the 42-year-old designated hitter has missed with this issue. He also missed three games earlier this month with a sore right knee.

“He’s doing a little bit better,” Martinez said. “About the same. His eye’s still about the same. He hit a little bit yesterday, he’s saying it’s a lot better. We’ll see how he feels today. If he’s available to pinch-hit today, it would be great.”

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