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Will The Real Anthony Gose Please Stand Up?

Hot Blue Jays prospect struggling in Buffalo

One of the most perplexing stories coming out of the Buffalo Bisons clubhouse this season is that of outfielder Anthony Gose. The Toronto Blue Jays have listed him as one of their top minor league prospects, and he has seen playing time in the big leagues. This season the Bisons were hoping to headline Gose as one of their top players and leaders.

It hasn’t happened. While Gose has been playing better of late, his statistics in a Bisons uniform have been rather ordinary—a .231 batting average with only two home runs and 20 runs batted in.

Yet those mediocre numbers didn’t stop Toronto from promoting Gose to the big club. It wasn’t the first time he had appeared in Toronto. Last season he was called up to replace the injured Jose Bautista, and failed to impress. This season, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons turned to Gose “to help in certain situational positions,” but failed to explain why other Bisons palyers, such as Moises Sierra or Jim Negrych, could not have cone the same or even a better job. Gose was returned to the Bisons on June 6.

He has had some successes: On May 7 against Norfolk, Gose stole home plate from third base and scored, a dramatic play which made it to the ESPN Sports Center top 10 plays of the night.

Yet a microcosm of everything wrong with Gose occurred a month later, again at Coca Cola Field. On June 19 against the Gwinnett Braves, the Bisons were nursing a one-run lead in the ninth with two outs, hoping to get that elusive first win for embattled pitcher Ricky Romero. A bloop single went in Gose’s direction to centerfield, and the Braves runner advanced to third. Gose then bobbled the ball, and the runner alertly sped for home plate and scored to tie the game. Romero’s win was out the window after pitching seven strong innings.

It got worse. The Braves runner on second made it to third on the bobble. And with Gose failing to return the ball towards the infield, that runner then went home and scored. Just like that Gwinnett was up 5-4, and they would go on to win the game.

Manager Marty Brown had seen plenty. He benched Gose for the next few games to send him a clear message that this kind of play is inexcusable at the AAA level.

Brown tries to recognize that Gose is only 22 years old but makes no excuses for his outfielder’s performance this year. Former Bisons manager Torey Lovullo never aired any criticism or scorn of his players to the public or the media; Brown’s approach is dramatically different.

“He’s getting hits, but that’s attributed to the fact that he can run. We’d like to see him get better, but he’s not getting as far and as well as we’d like to see him at this point,” said Brown. “It’s an ongoing thing. He needs to communicate. He needs to talk to somebody. He’s battling this frustration thing, but that’s the thing you try to explain to him. In his mind he thinks he’s a success at this level and can take that success to the next level. It’s about being 22 and dealing with the fact that you will fail seven out of 10 times. Right now he’s failing eight times. “

Brown was nonplussed when asked what he and Gose talked about. “Right now he has to go out there and battle. It’s a grind and we all go through it. But when he doesn’t want to go out there and battle, that’s when we have issues. He wants to hurry up, and it’s my job to tell him to move slower.”

With the season two-thirds over, Gose is looking more and more like a player who is disinterested in playing in the minors but clearly not ready for the big time.

Gose’s numbers look better with the Blue Jays, and many attribute that to his strong relationship with Jays’ hitting coach Chad Mottola.

Meanwhile, look out for Kevin Pillar, the speedy outfielder who has rocketed his way up the Blue Jays chain, and has put up big numbers in Buffalo since his callup to Buffalo in early June.

Around the Bases...

• Condolences to the Offermann family on the passing of Frank, Jr. last week. The younger Offermann was a mainstay of the Bisons days when they played in the stadium that bore his family’s name.

• And props to Ernie Young, who along with Dave Roberts and Buffalo News writer Mike Harrington, entered the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame. Young threw out all sorts of great memories of the 2004 championship season in Buffalo, where he was a huge part of that Governors Cup win, the last one here. Had young been healthy in 2005, no doubt we’d be talking back-to-back championships.

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