Gose hopes winter ball leads to role with Jays

Anthony Gose. (Nathan Denette/CP)

By the time the 2013 season ended, Anthony Gose wanted nothing to do with baseball. The Toronto Blue Jays outfielder described the season as the worst he’d ever had and declared that he needed time away from sports.

“I’m trying to do absolutely nothing. I’m trying to get away from baseball. That’s where I’m at,” Gose said at the time. “I will not watch a playoff game. I will not watch a World Series game. I could care less who wins.”

Months later, he was playing winter ball in Venezuela for the Tiburones de La Guaira. The possibility of a mid-winter tune-up prompted the 23-year-old to change his plans and head south.

“I wasn’t going to go and then I thought it could be good for me to go back and get at bats,” he said Friday at Rogers Centre. “I went a couple of years ago and I ended up being here during the season, 2012, so I thought it had a pretty good impact on me then. Maybe it could spark something and help in any way possible this year.”

Gose got about 25 at bats in before returning to the U.S. where he has since had the chance to work out and relax in anticipation of the 2014 season.

“It was good,” he said. “I didn’t do much of anything in those 25 at bats, but it was good experience, good to see live pitching and swing the bat a little bit.”

Gose didn’t do much of anything at the plate in 2013 by his own admission. He batted .259/.283/.408 in 52 games with the Blue Jays after hitting just .239/.316/.336 in 106 games at triple-A Buffalo. Bisons manager Marty Brown was openly critical of Gose’s play at times, but Blue Jays manager John Gibbons views the left-handed hitter as an important contributor in 2014.

“He’s a talented kid and he played really well for us in September,” Gibbons said Friday. “He had a tough year down in triple-A. We think a lot of that was mentally — he thought he should be in the big leagues, but it doesn’t always work that way. When he came up here he responded very well and showed everybody what he can do. We think he’s going to be a great player, we really do.”

Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus will be the Blue Jays’ starting outfielders, but each one missed considerable time in 2013. With Rajai Davis now playing for the Detroit Tigers, there’s reason to believe Gose will get every opportunity to break camp as the team’s fourth outfielder. While Kevin Pillar and the out-of-options Moises Sierra could also compete for the role, neither can match Gose’s experience in centre field, an important asset in a bench outfielder.

Gose struggled at the plate in 2013, failing to reach base at a league average rate and striking out 158 times between triple-A and Toronto. Yet new Blue Jays hitting coach Kevin Seitzer says he has tremendous tools that could translate into production before long.

“He’s a guy I love what I see,” Seitzer said. “All of these guys are gifted at this level from a mechanical standpoint and a swing standpoint, but what separates guys who get here from guys who are productive and stay here, it’s the good discipline, the good plan, the good approach.”

Once spring training workouts start February 21, Gose will be focused on making the opening day roster and spending as much time as possible with the Blue Jays. In the meantime, there are still a few weeks to relax before another long season begins.

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