* Kansas City Royals 5-foot-7 speedster Terrance Gore, left with Alex Gordon, is 8-for-8 stealing bases since being promoted to the majors. He was thrown out four times in the class-A Carolina League and Lynchburg Hillcats catcher Joe Odom was watching his former opponent on TV this week from the Atlanta Braves instructional league complex in Florida.
By Bob Elliott
BALTIMORE _ The crowd at Buffalo Wild Wings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. was filled with anticipation.
They watched intently as Terrance Gore entered the game as a pinch runner.
Then, the Kansas City Royals secret weapon was stealing second.
And the crowd at Wild Wings was cheering.
They weren’t Royals fans, but members of the Atlanta Braves instructional team having a bite and watching some ball after a long day at the yard at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.
Los Angeles Angels catcher Chris Iannetta didn’t throw Gore out in Game 2 of the American League Division Series. Same for Game 1.
Ditto for Oakland A’s Derek Norris in the wild-card game.
Yet, catcher Joe Odom, Braves prospect, who spent the summer with the Lynchburg Hillcats threw out Gore, the Wilmington Blue Rocks outfielder attempting to steal second in a class-A Carolina League game July 21.
“We were rooting for him, it’s neat to see a guy you played against getting a chance to play in the post-season,” said Odom, 22.
Have you told the other Braves prospects that you threw him out? How you got him?
“Yeah,” said Odom, from Birmingham, Ala. “it might have been mentioned … once or twice.”
Wilmington was leading Lynchburg 1-0 when Gore entered as a pinch runner in the seventh before 4,842 fans at Frawley Stadium in Wilmington, Del.
“We played Wilmington earlier and our coaches told us how quick he was,” said Odom. “We knew if he got on he was not standing around for very long. By the time I knew what was going on he was at second … he stole me blind.”
But on this night, starter Lucas Sims threw over to first “four or five times,” then Sims used a slide step throwing a changeup to the plate and Odom came up throwing.
“I threw a strike and David Nick put the tag on him,” said Odom. “It was a big deal when I threw him out.”
Gore has been clocked at 3.6 seconds to first base from the right side of the batter’s box. Teammate Jarrod Dyson had been timed at 3.55 to first from the left side.
Lefty Brandon Finnegan, a first-round pick from the TCU Horned Frog in June, started that night for Wilmington pitching three scoreless. He’s worked 4 1/3 scoreless for the Royals against both the A’s and the Angels.
“It’s cool to see Finnegan do well too,” said Odom. “We’re with the Atlanta Braves organization but it’s neat to see guys from our league on the TV in October.”
Finnegan took over in the sixth inning of Game 1. He faced three hitters and didn’t retire a man, lifted for reliever Kelvin Herrera. Finnegan walked Jonathan Schoop on four pitches, allowed a single to Nick Markakis. Royals catcher Salvatore Perez picked Schoop off second, Schoop broke for third and the throw was wild. Alejandro De Aza reached on a bloop single in front of a diving Alcides Escobar and that was that.
Manager New Yost did not use his secret weapon, Gore, in the 8-6, 10-inning Game 1 win.
In Game 2, Gore pinch ran for Omar Infante with the score tied in the top of the ninth. Facing lefty Zach Britton, Gore pinch ran and was bunted to second by No. 9 hitter Mike Moustakas, who has four homers this post-season. Bunting a hot hitter … Former Braves Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox likely would have done the same.
Alicides Escobar then doubled inside the first base line — second baseman Jonathan Schoop was holding Gore at second, so first baseman Steve Pearce was off the line more. An infield error and a base hit led to a 6-4 Royals win and a 2-0 lead.
Finnegan allowed a single and then recorded a ground ball out in his scoreless outing, picking up Yordano Ventura in the sixth.
Gore batted .218 with eight doubles, a triple and 15 RBIs in 89 games at Wilmington. Going 36-for-40 on the base paths earned him a promotion to triple-A Omaha where he hit .250 with a double, going 11-for-14 stealing. Royals general manager Dayton Moore promoted Gore Aug. 31 so he`d be eligible for the post-season roster.
`We don`t rely on the long ball,”`said Moore, “so we’re better off with a stolen base threat to either get a runner to second or maybe get the hitter a better pitch to hit.”
Moore also credited first base coach Rusty Kuntz for doing a excellent job preparing Gore when and when not to go.
Gore has not had an at-bat in the majors. But’s he’s as much of a dangerous weapon in the late innings as Nelson Cruz’s last at-bat of the game.
“Look at him,” saidRoyals’ bench coach Don Wakamatsu nodding toward the 5-foot-7, 20th-round pick from Gulf Coast Community College Commodores, “a guy that size making it gives everyone out there hope.”
Herb Washington, a world-class sprinter turned base stealer with Charlie Finley’s Oakland A’s, was the most famous base-running specialist. He appeared in 105 games with the 1974-75 A’s and never came to the plate. Washington appeared twice as a pinch runner against the Orioles and was thrown out by catcher Elrod Hendricks in a 5-0 Oakland win in Game 2 and by Andy Etchebarren in a 1-0 A’s victory in Game 3 of the ALCS.
Washington made three appearances in the World Series which the A’s won, didn’t steal a base and was picked off by Mike Marshall in the ninth in a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Odom and the rest of the Braves, managed by John Schuerholz, Jr., played the Canadian Junior National Team twice this week. The Braves lost a 3-2 decision in walk-off fashion as Tanner Rempel (Abbotsford, BC) delivered a decisive double and winning Saturday with two runs in the ninth for a 3-1 win.
“They were impressive,” Odom said. “They held their own against our pitchers. Some of them are three or four years younger than our guys.”
The manager is the son of John Schuerholz, president and chief architect of Atlanta’s 14-year post-season run which still is recognized as the organization with the most class in the industry,
Carson Blair of Salem Red Sox, Carolina Mudcats’ Jeremy Lucas and Odom, a 13th-round pick from Huntingdon College Hawks (“I didn’t get a lot for a bonus, but I got enough to get off mom and pops’ payroll”) in 2013 were the other Carolina League catchers to throw Gore out at second, while Frederick Keys’ Wynston Sawyer nailed Gore at third.
Besides the post-season catchers, Yan Gomes, Tomas Telis, Bryan Holaday, Josh Phegley and Adrian Nieto could not throw out Gore during the regular season.
He is 8-for-8 stealing bases against major league catchers.
Did Odom know that?
“No, sir I did not,” Odom said. “but we’re just going out to watch the game now — where depends on which place has a TV showing the game.
“It is a fact I might bring up. Thanks.”