Two of the top five picks from the 2017 draft will be the opposing pitchers Friday night when the San Diego Padres host the Atlanta Braves.
And while both still possess a high ceiling, the path to the major leagues has been anything but straight for either.
Left-hander MacKenzie Gore will make his major-league debut for the Padres on Friday.
For Braves right-hander Kyle Wright (1-0, 0.00 ERA), it will be his second start of the year.
Now 23, Gore was the third overall pick by the Padres out of high school in North Carolina. The Braves took Wright, now 26, with the fifth overall pick. He pitched at Vanderbilt.
Injuries and mechanical issues plagued Gore’s progress until it seemed to come together for him this spring. But despite an impressive spring, Gore opened the season at Triple-A El Paso, where he allowed no runs on two hits and no walks with seven strikeouts over five innings in his first start.
Meanwhile, Wright was knocking on the door of the big leagues as early as 2018, and he spent time with the Braves from 2018-20, posting a 2-7 record. But after going 10-5 with a 3.02 ERA in 24 starts at Triple-A Gwinnett last season, Wright allowed one run on five hits and three walks with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings of relief in the 2021 World Series.
In his first start with the Braves this year, Wright shut out the Cincinnati Reds on two hits and a walk with six strikeouts over six innings.
Speaking about Wright, Braves manager Brian Snitker recently offered a thought that speaks to both pitchers:
“What you are capable of and going out and doing it are two different things.”
Snitker then went into more detail on Wright:
“Kyle looks like a completely different guy from the outset of last year’s spring training,” he said. “He’s a little more focused, driven. The best thing that happened to that kid was a full season at Triple-A. He pitched, figured out who he was and changed some things. Coupling that with what he did in the World Series springboarded him into this spring and gave him a new confidence.”
Gore made 12 starts at four levels in the Padres’ system last year as he struggled to regain the form that once made him the No. 1 prospect in the team’s farm system. Some Padres fans had all but written him off.
“Friday is going to be a real special start for Gore,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “As much as the fan base has been looking forward to him pitching, he’s been looking forward to pitching in front of this fan base just as much.”
The Padres are coming off a 12-1 victory in Thursday’s series opener, which was their home opener after a 4-3 start on the road.
“I thought we could have won one more game on the road trip,” Melvin said. “Maybe we fell one game short. You always want to play a little better than .500 on the road. I don’t look at it that way. You never want to give a game away. When you talk about winning series, that means you are always giving one game away.”
–Field Level Media