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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, June 10, 2018 12:10 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (27-33) vs. Lansing (39-23)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

After an early morning storm, the rain has subsided as I write this, several hours before the scheduled first pitch of today's game. There's still plenty of threatening weather that is projected to move in this afternoon, but the TinCaps have escaped such fronts on both Friday and Saturday with no rain delays.

If the same pattern holds today, fans attending Parkview Field will get to see the best left-handed pitching prospect in the minor leagues take the mound for the TinCaps. 2017 No. 3 overall pick MacKenzie Gore was activated off the disabled list this morning and will get the start for Fort Wayne this afternoon. 

Gore has only made three starts this season and hasn't pitched since May 14, all because of a recurring blister on his pitching hand. This is his second lengthy DL stint because of the blister, but he'll get a chance to show he's fully healthy today after throwing a bullpen in Great Lakes last week.

The left-hander hasn't been particularly good in any of his starts this season, but he has shown plenty of flashes of his immense talent. He's struck out 10 and walked just two in eight innings, hitting 95 with his fastball. He's been hit hard in all three starts, but in each of those outings, he's been bitten by a big inning, while the rest of the start was relatively smooth.

Fangraphs recently released its prospect rankings for the San Diego Padres organization and listed Gore as the team's No. 3 prospect. Here's what the site's prospect expert, Eric Longenhagen, had to say about the North Carolina native.

"Gore doesn’t have a dominant fastball, nor does he project to, but he’ll touch 96 and has remarkable command of it, as well as command of his slider, curveball, and changeup," Longenhagen wrote. "His unique delivery requires elite athleticism to repeat, but Gore does it, and he projects to have plus command."

In his limited discussions with the media this season, Gore has seemed a little frustrated by both his performance and the injury that has kept him on the shelf most of the year. He's a competitor and he'll be ready to go when he takes the mound today.

In his first start off the DL, he probably won't pitch more than three innings, four at the most, and the TinCaps will utilize a "piggyback" starter for the matchup. All-Star Aaron Leasher had been the scheduled starter for this game and he'll be first out of the bullpen, likely pitching three or four innings of his own. Leasher pitched four shutout innings in relief against the South Bend Cubs on Tuesday and has a stellar 3.08 ERA this season.

The Lugnuts will counter the pair of Fort Wayne starters with 19-year-old right-hander Maximo Castillo. One of the youngest pitchers at this level, Castillo has gone 4-1 with a 5.96 ERA this season. That inflated ERA masks a pitcher who has been decent enough, striking out 45 and walking just 16 in 48 1/3 innings. He's made six starts and six relief appearances and his most recent start saw him strike out nine and walk only one. 

The TinCaps left some opportunities on the bases Saturday, especially in the third inning, when they loaded the bases with one out and didn't bring in any runs. Hitting with runners in scoring position will be a key today.

Still, Gore is the attraction for this game. If he has a good start, the matchup will likely be considered a success, no matter the final score.