After his career as a major league outfielder ended, Anthony Gose decided to give the pitcher a chance. The move seemed like a long shot, an attempt to extend a career that was probably realistically ended.
On Monday, Gose made his major league pitcher debut for Cleveland at the age of 31. He pitched an inning and two-thirds, giving up a run, but more impressively, he jumped 100 miles an hour on the pistol. An unlikely comeback may have started.
Gose was a great pitcher in high school in Southern California, but he chose the outfield because he wanted to play every day. He was good enough to be drafted in the second round by Philadelphia in 2008.
His career never really took off. Thanks to his top speed – he already stole 76 goals in a minor league season – he spent five seasons from 2012 to 2016 with Toronto and Detroit, but only one as a regular. He ended up hitting .240 with almost no power, which wasn’t good enough for a major league outfielder.
So in 2017, when it was clear his batting days were over, he decided to give the pitcher another try. This meant a return to minors and more years of learning his trade, with an eventual payoff that was far from certain.
After a few tough years, he appeared to be successful in the Puerto Rican and Dominican winter leagues, building up a 0.90 ERA with the Toros del Este in 2020-21. He was 6-1 with a 3.55 ERA with the AAA-class Columbus Clippers this season and played at the Tokyo Olympics, where he allowed a hit and no runs in five innings as the United States won the silver medal.
In his major league pitcher debut on Monday, he showed an easy left delivery that hit 100 mph eight times. He allowed a walk and a brace in the fourth inning, allowing a run, then got the first two outs in the fifth before being put out after 39 shots, including 27 hits. Cleveland ultimately lost to Kansas City, 4-2.
“It was pretty special for me,” said laconic Gose after the game.
On why he made the effort to fight against the majors, he said, “I love the game. I love playing. Guess I’m too stupid to quit.
Hitters who can also pitch have been in the spotlight this year thanks to Shohei Ohtani’s remarkable two-way success with the Angels, doing things no one has done since at least Babe Ruth.
Gose’s case is unusual in its own way as few players have played as hitters and then moved on to the mound late in their careers, or vice versa.
Trevor Hoffman and Tim Wakefield were drafted as hitters and then became notable pitchers. But both made the transition while still in the minors.
The closest comparison might be a player who has gone the other way. Despite a strong season with St. Louis in 2000, Rick Ankiel finished with the pitch four years later due to injuries and an inability to find the strike zone. He reshaped himself as an outfielder, returned three years later, and managed another seven years in the majors.
Such a transformation would be more than acceptable for Cleveland and Gose.