Lakeland, Fla. – Anthony Gose spent a good portion of the morning Friday sharing hugs, handshakes and laughs with his teammates, some of whom he hadn’t seen since he was demoted to the minor leagues last May.
The only time the smile left his face was when a trio of reporters approached him. Clearly, he wasn’t in a chatty mood.
Q. What’s your mindset coming back here this year?
A. “I’m in camp.”
Q. Are you looking at it as a fresh start?
A. “That’s one way of looking at it.”
Q. Is it how you are looking at it?
A. “I’m just here.”
Q. What did you do this offseason to prepare for this camp?
A. “Sat at home and prayed.”
Q. Are you encouraged that you are in the competition for the center field job?
A. “Just come to camp and play ball.”
Clearly, whatever statements Gose wants to make will be with his play. And that’s fine with manager Brad Ausmus.
“He’s never had a problem in the clubhouse,” he said. “He’s quiet, but he’s never been a negative presence at all.”
By now you know the story. Gose broke camp the previous two seasons as the club’s center fielder, and in 2015 showed promise, hitting .254 in 140 games. But his career went off the rails last year. His batting average plummeted below .200 and his strikeout rate was up over 30 percent.
He was sent to Toledo in May, had a public dugout altercation with manager Lloyd McClendon and finished the season at Double-A Erie. He was designated for assignment, then re-signed to a minor league deal after he cleared waivers.
He was invited to big league camp to compete with Mikie Mahtook and Tyler Collins for the center field spot.
“Anthony Gose is a very talented young man and he’s only 26 years old,” general manager Al Avila said last month. “The reason we are bringing him back to spring training is we feel like, at his age, he still has the ability to reach his potential.
“If he does, if he even comes close to that, we’re going to have a pretty good center fielder and a good asset to our team.”
Even if Gose himself won’t talk about it, the Tigers believe his emotional issues from last season have been resolved.
“I like Anthony a lot,” Ausmus said. “We put a lot of time in together in the batting cages and I want to see him be successful. Like with anyone, this game can make you emotional. But I thought, overall, he was very good about it. He handled it well.”