Gore's season likely over with 15-day IL stint for blister

MacKenzie Gore’s season has likely to come to an end three weeks early after the Nationals placed the left-hander on the 15-day injured list with a pair of blisters on his middle finger that has impacted at least two of his recent starts.

Gore was hampered by the ailment during Friday night’s 8-5 loss to the Dodgers, in which he gave up three homers and was pulled after 89 pitches in only four innings. It was the second time this summer he had a start cut short by a blister, and it’s something that has plagued him in the past as well.

“It’s kind of always been a thing,” he said after the game. “It’s no excuse, but it’s frustrating. It is a real thing.”

Though he wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility, manager Davey Martinez made it clear it’s highly unlikely Gore will return to pitch before season’s end. He won’t be eligible to come off the IL until Sept. 24, at which point there’s only one week of games left.

“We’ll keep an eye on him, but I’d hate to start him up again,” Martinez said. “We’re getting close to the innings. Honestly, we’re beyond the innings we thought we’d get (coming into the year). But right now, I’m not going to rule anything out. Give me a few days. I want to sit down and have a conversation with him. But I think he’ll be shut down.”

The Nationals had been talking all summer about limiting Gore’s workload in his first full big league season. He’s currently at 136 1/3 innings, which represents a 35 percent increase over his previous career high (set in 2019 as a minor leaguer with the Padres) and dwarfs the 87 combined innings he threw last season in the majors and minors while also missing time with an elbow injury.

Assuming he doesn’t return, Gore will finish this season 7-10 with a 4.42 ERA, 1.401 WHIP and 151 strikeouts in those 136 1/3 innings. There were a number of eye-opening, dominant starts along the way, but his outings in between often were labored and abbreviated.

“When I talk to him, it’s all going to be about consistency,” Martinez said. “When he’s good, he’s good. His stuff is always electric. We’ve got to get him to understand how to use his stuff, how to attack hitters a little better, being around the zone. His misses need to be more around the zone. But overall, I think he’s matured from the beginning of the year to now tremendously.”

“I told him before: You’re a future All-Star, if you want to be. Physically, he’s great. The mental game is what he’s really working on a lot, and he’s done really well with that.”

Martinez wasn’t prepared yet to say how the Nationals will deal with Gore’s absence. They’ve been using a six-man rotation for the last month, so they could potentially just stick with the remaining five on normal rest. But they’re also monitoring the workloads of other young starters like Jake Irvin and Josiah Gray, so they may prefer to add someone else to take Gore’s spot.

One obvious possibility: Jackson Rutledge, the 2019 first-round pick who is 8-4 with a 3.71 ERA and 1.269 WHIP in 23 starts for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Rochester this season. Rutledge was supposed to start for Rochester on Friday night but was a late scratch for unspecified reasons.

For now, the Nationals are using Gore’s roster spot on left-hander Joe La Sorsa, who was recalled from Triple-A to provide another bullpen arm.

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