The Nationals placed left-hander MacKenzie Gore on the 15-day injured list earlier today with finger blisters. Fellow lefty Joe La Sorsa was recalled in the corresponding move. As relayed by MLB.com, manager Dave Martinez told reporters this afternoon that Gore is likely done for the season as a result of the injury, though he added that he wasn’t going to rule anything out “right now.”
2023 was Gore’s first full season with the Nationals after coming over from the Padres as a part of the deal that sent Juan Soto to San Diego. Overall, Gore looked like a solid, rotation-caliber arm in 27 starts this season, though his 4.42 ERA clocked in right around league average (96 ERA+) and his peripherals (4.90 FIP, 5.08 xERA) hardly looked like those one would expect from an arm who was once considered the top pitching prospect in all of baseball.
That being said, Gore did post a solid 25.9% strikeout rate along with a perfectly manageable walk rate of 9.8% this year. Most of Gore’s struggles this season stemmed from problems with the long ball; a whopping 18.4% of Gore’s fly balls left the yard for home runs this season, double the 9.2% rate he experienced in 2022 as a member of the Padres.
Digging a little deeper into Gore’s numbers, it seems the 24-year-old hurler may have worn down during his first wire-to-wire big league season as the year went on. Gore made sixteen starts in the first three months of the season, and looked like a quality mid-rotation arm during that time. Despite hitters managing an elevated .341 BABIP against him, Gore posted a 3.89 ERA and 4.07 FIP in 85 2/3 innings of work, with a fantastic 28.5% strikeout rate.
In his final eleven starts of the season from the start of July onward, Gore looked like a completely different pitcher. Despite his BABIP misfortunes from earlier in the season turning around in his favor (.261), he posted a 5.33 ERA and 6.30 FIP across his final 50 2/3 innings of work this year while striking out just 21.7% of batters faced. His home run rate also ballooned, as he allowed more dingers (14) in those final 50-plus innings than he did in the entire first half (13).
Given this downturn in production as the season wore on, it’s hardly surprising that the Nationals would consider pulling the plug on Gore’s season with three weeks left to go. At the same time, it could provide some reason for optimism for Nationals fans as they look to the future, as Gore is sure to be a member of the 2024 rotation alongside the likes of Josiah Gray and Jake Irvin. If Gore’s late-season struggles were a product of working beyond what Martinez indicated the club expected his innings limit to be coming into the year, it’s possible his 2024 season could wind up looking more like his impressive first-half numbers.
As for La Sorsa, the 25-year-old lefty made his MLB debut for the Rays earlier this season. In 23 2/3 innings of work at the big league level this season between the Tampa and Washington bullpens, the lefty sports a 6.08 ERA and 4.74 FIP. Despite those ugly numbers, he’ll nonetheless provide the Nats with an additional lefty out of the bullpen to pair with Jose Ferrer.