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The Journal Gazette

Friday, June 22, 2018 5:20 pm

Pregame: TinCaps vs. West Michigan Whitecaps (Doubleheader)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps and Whitecaps were supposed to open the second half Thursday, but rain changed those plans and they'll instead play a pair of seven-inning games tonight. Padres general manager A.J. Preller and director of player development Sam Geaney will be on hand to watch the A-ball affiliate in person after the organization announced earlier today that it has extended its Player Development Contract with the TinCaps through the 2020 season.

With Preller in town, the Padres' top pitching prospect will get the ball in the first game of tonight's twin bill. Left-hander MacKenzie Gore only made five starts in the first half, totaling 13 innings, but for right now the blister issues that plagued him in that first half seem to be behind him.

"He's had kind of an uneven start to this (season), as far as some of the blister issues," Preller said, when explaining why he was excited to see Gore pitch in person. "You try to watch as much video as you can. Sometimes video's not the best way to watch it, but I've seen his last few outings and he's thrown well."

Preller, who is in his fifth season as Padres GM and has built the top farm system in baseball according to MLB.com, is correct that Gore has pitched well recently. After a rough start to the season, the 6-foot-3 lefty has been dominant in his last two starts, though both have been abbreviated.

He's pitched five innings combined in those outings, giving up just one hit and no runs while striking out eight. His fastball has consistently been 94-95 mph and he's spotted all four of his pitches with precision. For tonight's start to be considered successful, he'll need to pitch deeper into the game than he has in his first two starts off the disabled list, when he threw just 36 and 39 pitches, respectively. He's clearly hoping to be able to do that, although the Padres have understandably been cautious. If he pitches into the fourth or fifth inning tonight, it will be another step in the right direction for the uber-talented 19-year-old.

The second game will feature Thursday's scheduled starter in left-hander Osvaldo Hernandez. He's been a rock in the TinCaps' rotation this season, ranking second in the league in ERA at 2.25 and giving up two runs or fewer in every start since April 15. He's not a mega-prospect like Gore is, but the 20-year-old lefty is talented and has been a key piece in a TinCaps rotation that has been solid in May and June.

Of course, both lefties' starts are contingent on cooperating weather. After Thursday's game was rained out, dark clouds again hang over Fort Wayne this afternoon. If the first game gets completed, the second will begin half an hour later. 

dsinn@jg.net