DUNEDIN — By the time he was 21-years-old, he had already made his major league debut for the Toronto Blue Jays organization — at Yankee Stadium.
Anthony Gose’s ascension to the big-leagues was fast. His progress in the show –15 stolen bases and a batting average of .340 with balls in play through 56 games with Toronto last season — was encouraging.
“You get a taste of it, and you want it. It makes you hungry,” Gose said.
Except, there will be no charter planes or five-star hotels for Gose this season.
He received a call over the winter that was direct and to the point; barring unforeseen circumstances, Gose will be going to triple-A Buffalo when the regular season begins.
“I feel a little embarrassed I have to go back to the minor leagues,” Gose said. “It’s more of a pride thing with me. I don’t want to go back.”
It’s hard to initially accept when all you’ve experienced in your baseball career is success.
“I haven’t had to repeat a level yet going through the minor leagues,” said Gose. “And I always told myself going in, I didn’t want to repeat any level except the big-leagues. And I’m getting ready to repeat triple-A. It was a blow to my pride and my ego.
“When I first heard it, I was angry because I wanted to make the team. Now I’m here, and there’s no turning back. Everything’s going to move on with or without me. I’ve got to go out there and get better.”
He’s getting plenty of opportunities to do that this spring.
Not just because eight Blue Jays away from camp at the World Baseball Classic, but Colby Rasmus — who is slated to be the every day starter in centre field — has been dealing with a nagging right shoulder issue that has kept him out for the last week.
So Gose is getting plenty of work, and the organization has communicated where they’d like to see improvement.
Since reporting to Spring Training last month, he says every day is an audition under John Gibbons and his new staff.
“The biggest area to get better is offensively, but it’s pretty much the whole game,” said Gose. “You’ve got to be the complete player. Until you’re that, time is going to be limited.”
Last season in the minors, Gose would spend afternoons in the cage working on a modified stance to prepare for the stuff he’d face in the majors. By night, though, he would return to his regular approach and swing in live action.
“We’d let him be athletic, with the bat on the shoulder, and he’d see breaking balls in games. But we were investing all year on working on the (tweaked) stance,” said new Blue Jays hitting coach Chad Mottola, who coached Gose last season. “When he got called up, we decided ‘why not break out the new stance there.”
Gose played every day in September, and hit .284 in his final 28 games.
“It’s evolved and there has been input both ways,” said Mottola.
Where they’ve arrived is at a hybrid stance, combining the “athletic,” natural approach Gose had always used, with the changes they’ve worked on. He’s in ready position more, “ready to hit a fast ball,” explained Mottola.
“He’s learned to blend it on his own. His aptitude is amazing. But it’s a process.”
And that progression will take him back to Buffalo, where pressures will be diminished in the minors. The kid on the meteoric rise, who thrives on speed, needs to slow down and fine rtune.
As colleague Dirk Hayhurst pointed out Tuesday, Gose just flat struck out way too much in 2012 — 59 times in 189 plate appearances.
“Once he gets the bat going, it’s the big thing,” said Gibbons. “He’s not a piss ant. He’s got some strength to him.”
The philosophy Alex Anthopoulos has had with young players on the bubble remains the same with Gose. The intention is to call him back up only when they feel he’ll stay with the Blue Jays. They don’t want to create a back-and-forth situation up and down the QEW.
There appears to be no urgency from the Blue Jays at this stage, at his age. On top of that, the team’s off-season moves created depth and upgrades in the outfield.
Gose is the future. The future isn’t now.
“The organization thinks highly of him, and you can see why,” Gibbons said.”
Gose, with his youthful brashness and a fiery want-to, sees it differently. He wants a fast-track of his own.
“It’s pretty much what it comes down to at this point in my career and this stage of my life. I need to show I can play at the big-league level, or who knows what’s going to happen,” said Gose.