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Gore, Patino ready to battle for roster spots

Top Padres pitching prospects encouraged to 'get after it'
MacKenzie Gore racked up 135 strikeouts over 101 innings across two Minor League levels in 2019. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
July 5, 2020

The Padres have prided themselves on an abundant farm system that bodes well for the future. With two of baseball's top pitching prospects waiting in the wings and a 60-game sprint ahead, that future may be now.

The Padres have prided themselves on an abundant farm system that bodes well for the future. With two of baseball's top pitching prospects waiting in the wings and a 60-game sprint ahead, that future may be now.

Top prospect MacKenzie Gore and third-ranked Luis Patiño were added to San Diego's 60-man player pool last week, although that didn't exactly come as a surprise. The Padres have 18 of their top 30 prospects in the pool along with first-round pick Robert Hassell III. And they're expected to add third-rounder Cole Wilcox in the next few days. Many of the additions are for developmental purposes. But Gore and Patino possess unique opportunities to impact the team from the outset -- which is exactly what they're expecting to do.

"When I got in to Spring Training I went in with the mentality that I was going to learn. ... It was a learning process, first and foremost," Patino said Sunday through team translator David Longley. "But at the same time, I've never been someone who is indecisive or unclear about my goals or what I believe in.

"When I was there, my mind was made up that I was going to make the team. Even if the chances were low ... I had it made up in my mind that I was making the team, no matter what, until the day they sent me down. Nothing is going to change that mindset. It's how I've always acted and what I've always believed. I'm someone who is very convicted and always positive, never focusing on the negatives or what I can't do. That's the same case here."

Although their Cactus League exposure was limited -- both made only two appearances -- Patino and Gore will get plenty of repetitions facing the Padres' big league hitters in simulated games during Summer Camp. They also have two fantastic 2019 campaigns to back them up.

Both earned midseason promotions to Double-A last year, with Gore posting a 1.69 ERA and 0.83 WHIP between the California and Texas leagues and Patino putting up a 2.57 ERA and averaging 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings. A video game-like season for Gore, in which the southpaw limited opponents to a .164 average while striking out 35 percent of them, earned him's Starting Pitcher of the Year award. Both were named Organization All-Stars.

In a normal season, a call to The Show certainly appeared to be in the cards for Gore and Patino. However, with the pandemic upending any sense of normalcy, there's a decent chance that MLB Pipeline's top overall pitching prospect could end up on the Friars' Opening Day roster, with Patino -- ranked 27th -- right behind him.

There are still plenty of questions regarding how the situation plays out. The Padres have all but cemented their starting rotation in righties Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet, Garrett Richards and Zach Davies and lefty Joey Lucchesi. But first-year manager Jayce Tingler has toyed with the idea of a six-man rotation, among other things.

"It's all an open game right now," Tingler said. "It's why we need to use these next 18-19 intrasquad games and practices. They're going to be competing for roles. Is that a starting role or out of the bullpen, one time through the lineup? Is that long relief? Is that short relief? We have to be prepared for all hands on deck."

The skipper reiterated what he'd like to see from his prized prospects, with the main focus being a no-fear, all-in approach.

"Don't nibble," Tingler said. "Get after it and get in the zone, especially in these days. I want to find out what their ball does against (Manny) Machado, (Eric) Hosmer, (Fernando) Tatis (Jr.), (Jurickson) Profar. I want to find out how aggressive they can be and find out how their stuff plays."

That should be no problem for either one, especially Gore, who's been repeating a similar mantra since making his professional debut in 2017.

"The biggest thing is to just be aggressive and go after people. Trust your stuff and good things will happen," the 21-year-old said. "When there's a little fear in there, that's when bad things happen, but if you're aggressive ... that's where you'll have the success."

Tingler expects to take 12 pitchers that could essentially build into starters, but acknowledged between COVID-19 concerns and health and safety protocols that needs and strategy change on a daily basis. Either way, Patino and Gore are eager to prove themselves and make the team in whatever capacity the organization needs.

"There's 60 games and I'm going to do everything I can to help this team," Gore said. "I think we're in a really good spot right now as a club."

"I'm here now," Patino added. "I know I can help the team. I know I can make an impact this year. I've always known that."