After his career as a major league outfielder wound down, Anthony Gose decided to give pitching a chance. The move seemed like a long shot, a bid to extend a career that was realistically probably over.
On Monday, Gose made his major league pitching debut for Cleveland at age 31. He threw an inning and two-thirds, giving up a run, but more impressively popped 100 miles an hour on the gun. An unlikely comeback might have begun.
Gose was a great pitcher in high school in Southern California, but chose 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 quite took off. Thanks to his top-notch speed — he once stole 76 bases in a minor league season — he spent five seasons from 2012 to 2016 with Toronto and Detroit, but only one as a regular. He wound 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 pitching another try. This meant a return to the minors and more years of learning his trade, with an eventual payoff that was far from certain.
After a tough couple of years he seemed to put it together in the Puerto Rican and Dominican Winter Leagues, putting up an 0.90 E.R.A. with the Toros del Este in 2020-21. He was 6-1 with a 3.55 E.R.A. with the Class AAA Columbus Clippers this season and played at the Tokyo Olympics, where he allowed one hit and no runs in five innings as the U.S. won the silver medal.
In his major league pitching debut on Monday, he showed off an easy-looking left-handed delivery that hit 100 m.p.h. eight times. He gave up a walk and a double in the fourth inning, allowing one run, then got the first two outs of the fifth before being pulled after 39 pitches, 27 of them strikes. Cleveland eventually lost to Kansas City, 4-2.
“That was pretty special for me,” the laconic Gose said after the game.
On why he had put in the effort to battle back to the majors, he said: “I love the game. I love to play. I guess I’m too stupid to quit.”
Hitters who can also pitch have been in the spotlight this year thanks to the remarkable two-way success of Shohei Ohtani with the Angels, who is doing things no one has done since at least Babe Ruth.
Gose’s case is unusual in its own way since few players have played as hitters and then transitioned late in their career to the mound, or vice versa.
Trevor Hoffman and Tim Wakefield were drafted as hitters and then became standout pitchers. But both made the transition while still in the minors.
The closest comparison might be a player who went the other way. Despite one strong season with St. Louis in 2000, Rick Ankiel was finished with pitching four years later because of injuries and an inability to find the strike zone. He refashioned himself as an outfielder, returned three years later, and managed seven more years in the majors.
A transformation like that would be more than acceptable for Cleveland and Gose.