Gose on fast start with speed, new swing

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Anthony Gose singles in the first inning Saturday against the Braves.

Lakeland, Fla. – Anthony Gose hasn't been around that long, but he's been around plenty long enough to know that you don't win any prizes for fast starts in Grapefruit League play.

"It's spring training," he said, with a hint of exasperation. "It's been four days. If I'm doing this at the All-Star break, then come talk to me."

The perspective is duly noted. Gose's hot start should also be duly noted. In four games, he's 7-for-11 (6-for-8 vs. right-handed pitchers) with two walks, nine total bases, three RBI and two steals.

Three of his outs were strikeouts, so when he's made contact, he's got on base. And when he's on base, he's disruptive. The two steals aside, he has put defenses on high alert.

In the first inning Saturday against the Braves, he singled and should have been easily forced at second on a grounder by Yoenis Cespedes. But his speed forced a hurried and errant throw. He might have had the play beaten anyway.

"Speed is a big part of his game; we know the speed is going to be there," manager Brad Ausmus said. "We want to see good at-bats. So far, he's giving us that. In spring training, I am not overly concerned with results as I am with mechanics of his swing, whether he's chasing pitches or not."

In parts of three seasons with the Blue Jays, Gose hit .234 with .301 on-base and .332 slugging percentages. In 616 plate appearances, he walked just 47 times. That was underwhelming production from such an athletically-blessed prospect.

Working with Tigers hitting coaches Wally Joyner and Dave Newhan, Gose has reconfigured his stance and his swing. It's not a complete swing overhaul like outfielder J.D. Martinez undertook before last season, but it's a significant change.

"I feel comfortable with what we're trying to do," Gose said. "I wouldn't say it's fully natural. It's something I'm still working on. I am getting here (early) and working on it as much as I can."

The way Gose explained it -- not wanting to share the details of the changes -- he's trying to get himself in a better position to hit.

"It might not seem like much, but it's a big change," he said. "You can describe it in a few words, but definitely it's a different feel for me."

Joyner earlier this spring said he was trying to put Gose in a position to use his athleticism at the plate and not be so locked up by the mechanics.

"What you have to do is not get overly analytical, get him in an athletic position and let his talent go," Joyner said. "There is a reason why he's up here; it's because he's talented. A lot of times it's a matter of freeing him up, freeing anybody up, and allowing them to be themselves."

Ausmus half-jokingly said when he played he revamped his swing "on an annual basis." But he does understand the process can be painstaking.

"Generally, it does take time," he said. "I think when you do change your swing, at times you are going to revert back to old habits. It's kind of a two steps forward, one step back type of thing."

Gose knows the step-back is coming.

"It's definitely not going to take just a couple days of spring training or a couple of days in the regular season," he said. "Things are going good right now, but there's going to be a time when it falls apart and I am going to have to go searching for it."

At least now, he's equipped with some semblance of a map.