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Apr 9, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Cleveland Guardians relief pitcher Anthony Gose (26) pitches against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nick Tre. Smith (FLO)-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bob Lemon and Bucky Walters. Trevor Hoffman and Joe Nathan. Kenley Jansen and Sean Doolittle. They’re among the all-time best to convert to the pitcher's mound — and succeed — after starting out at different positions.

Confident in his own big left arm, Anthony Gose thought he could perform as a major-league pitcher. Back when he played the outfield, he would talk about himself like he could pitch. Right-hander Michael Fulmer reached the major leagues in 2016, the final season Gose played as a position player when he batted .209/.287/.341 in 30 games for Detroit, and he remembered Gose boasting about how hard he could throw the ball. And not just from the outfield.

"Gose was always one of those guys, he would tell the pitchers he could throw 97 (mph) off the mound," Fulmer told Bally Sports. "And it was, like, 'Yeah, yeah, and I can hit .400 at the plate.' But no: He's actually one of the guys who could back it up."

Gose was about to back up — way, way back — in a gamble to keep his career flourishing.

A 2008 second-round pick who was chosen for the Futures Game in 2012 as a consensus top 50-60 prospect, Gose, at 26, told the Tigers he wanted to convert to pitcher. He backtracked through the minors that included six stops with three different organizations, plus winter-ball stints in two different countries, with much of it happening amid a global pandemic.

He found his way back to the majors as a pitcher with Cleveland last Sept. 20 — at age 31.

"When I first decided to pitch, I thought it was gonna be easier," Gose said. "But I learned real fast that it's not."

Gose walked his first batter, Hunter Dozier of the Royals, but he got better, striking out nine of the 24 batters he faced overall. Gose featured a four-seam fastball that averaged 99.3 mph (even faster than what he boasted to Fulmer and the other pitchers) along with a slider he found tough to get over the plate.

He hit another significant milestone this April by making the Guardians out of spring training, and it did feel special to him. But Gose refuses to pat himself on the back or feel too secure.

"I thought because I threw hard that I could do this," said Gose, whose four-seamer this season averages 96.7 mph after a delayed and rushed spring training caused by the owners' lockout. "Well, everybody in MLB throws hard, as you can see, and not everybody can pitch well. So it's definitely been difficult."

Early on in the minors, Gose walked more than one batter per inning. The Astros still gambled on him as a Rule 5 draftee in 2017, a tease that was short-lived when they sent him back three weeks into spring training. A scout who watched him pitch last year called his delivery “bad,” adding that it left Gose vulnerable to mistakes and potential injuries, but said his slider was “sharp.”

Gose’s results in the majors, at least superficially in a small sample, appear to be effective — 10 total innings (2021-22), 34.2 strikeout percentage (MLB average is 22%), 7.9 walk percentage (MLB average is 8.4%) and a 1.80 ERA. But within Gose's 2022 stats lie several warning signs, such as opponent exit velocity (96.2 mph; MLB average: 88 mph), barrel percentage (25%; MLB average: 6.6%), expected slugging percentage (.763; MLB average: .408) and expected ERA (8.40).

Getting his fastball over the plate has been hard. Commanding the slider, after ditching a curveball and changeup that he tried earlier in the transition, has been hard. Fulmer noted development on "feel pitches," like curves and changeups, would be the last thing Gose would master. Sliders make more sense to use because of Gose's arm speed. The ability to "grip it and rip it," as they say about certain golfers off the tee, works as a philosophy for pitchers too. But it's all been difficult.

"The whole time, from making the decision to pitch to standing here today, nothing has been easy," Gose said. "It kind of hit me at one point: I don't think you ever have it figured out because everybody's making adjustments to you and you to them. So I'm still putting the pieces together.

"Baseball is nothing but adjustments."

It might seem to Gose like he's been on a long road back to the big leagues, but most pitchers in the majors have been perfecting their craft for even longer.

"Pitchers, most of us, we've all been doing this since we were 10 years old," Fulmer said.

The success stories among pitching converts are common knowledge, like Jansen (catcher), Hoffman (infielder) and Nathan (shortstop), who all ditched their drafted positions in the low minors to become pitchers after it became apparent their hitting ability wouldn't carry them far up the professional ladder.

Hoffman made the Hall of Fame, Jansen is a strong possibility someday for Cooperstown and Nathan is one of the best relief pitchers of his generation not in the Hall. Troy Percival of the Angels, Carlos Marmol of the Cubs, Pedro Strop of the Orioles, knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, former No. 1 overall pick Matt Bush and even Blue Jays legend Dave Stieb also made the transition as low-experience pros. A first baseman drafted 41st overall out of college, Doolittle waited until he was slugging at Triple A for the Athletics before becoming a pitcher — and he’s been one of the better late-inning relievers in MLB.

Gose's journey has been different. He made it to the majors with the Blue Jays and Tigers as an outfielder, hitting .240/.309/.348 with 57 stolen bases in 1,252 career plate appearances. Using FanGraphs to compare him to others with a similar amount of playing time from 2012 to 2016, he ranks No. 261 of 340 players, about the 25th percentile. It's not great but also not at the bottom. Gose could have kept hacking.

Nathan, a teammate of Gose's with the Tigers in 2015, remembers being surprised when he left the majors to try pitching.

"He was successful as an outfielder, a pretty good position player," Nathan said.

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DETROIT, MI - MAY 07: Anthony Gose #12 of the Detroit Tigers throws the ball back to the infield during a MLB game against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park on May 7, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. The Rangers defeated the Tigers 10-5. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)* Local Caption * Anthony Gose

Nathan was in his early 20s when the Giants came to him and more or less demanded that he become a pitcher, which had been their plan for him all along. Too proud and not ready to hear it, he actually quit pro baseball in 1996, finished his college degree and worked for a while on Wall Street. It didn't take him long to realize he would prefer to try pitching after all, so he returned to the San Francisco organization in 1997.

About 2 1/2 years later, the Giants promoted Nathan to the majors.

"I was hoping to get one more year to prove it was necessary that I switch to pitching," Nathan said. "My situation was different from Anthony's."

Gose's career has unfolded like those among a group of roughly three dozen major leaguers in history who pivoted to pitching after they had established a career in the big leagues as a hitter. And it’s not in the spirit of blowout, mop-up guys like Brett Phillips, Willians Astudillo or Yermín Mercédes, who all on occasion sacrifice themselves (and sometimes a little dignity) to rest true bullpen arms.

Most of the transitioned pitchers in Gose's class (but not all) went to the minors to make it happen. Fans probably are familiar with some of the recent semi-successful attempts — Brooks Kieschnick, Ron Mahay, Chris Hatcher, Adam Loewen, Jason Lane, Brett Eibner and Javy Guerra.

Guerra, a 26-year-old who debuted with the Padres in 2018 after reaching top-60 overall prospect status as a shortstop, logged two innings on April 10 before being traded to Tampa Bay, where he was reassigned to Triple A. With a career 2.96 ERA in the minors and 8.46 ERA in the majors since 2019, Guerra is still trying to make the transition work.

The gold standard for players like Gose is Lemon, who, at age 20, debuted in the big leagues as a third baseman with Cleveland before World War II began. Lemon pitched a little in the Navy during the war but had almost zero experience as a pitcher in the pros. He opened the 1946 season as Cleveland's starting center fielder, but manager Lou Boudreau could tell he wouldn't hit enough to play every day, initiating Lemon’s transition to the mound without work in the minors. In 1948, Lemon made the All-Star team, pitched 10 shutouts, led the league in innings pitched and helped Cleveland win the World Series. He made the Hall of Fame in 1976.

No less deserving of Cooperstown, Bucky Walters started as a mediocre third baseman for the Braves and Red Sox before switching to pitching with his hometown Phillies at 25. He didn't hit his stride on the mound until his 30s with the Reds, when he won National League MVP in 1939 and threw a shutout in Game 6 of the 1940 World Series against Hank Greenberg and the Tigers to help Cincy win it all.

"I'm not really modeling myself after anyone in particular," Gose said. "I'm just trying to figure out who I am."

Gose doesn't have to be as good as Lemon or Walters to be a success. He's already done something the vast majority of major leaguers couldn't even imagine doing: He has made the major leagues twice. And his extensive history as a hitter should be able to help inform his success as a pitcher, according to Nathan.

"The bonus for him is being at that level as a position guy. He probably understood what pitchers were trying to do to him," Nathan said. "He has an advantage that he can take that knowledge to the mound, and maybe be successful pitching certain guys backwards."

Transforming suggestions like that into a way to get outs is going to take more experience and time. One of Gose's catchers with the Guardians, Austin Hedges, likes his potential to capitalize.

"Gosey is learning how to pitch in the right areas," Hedges said. "When to throw in and up, when to use the slider — all kinds of stuff that comes with experience. A cool thing about his situation is, he's a big leaguer and a back-end, high-leverage reliever right now, and he's allowed space to get a lot better."

Hedges is also pulling hard for his teammate.

"Knowing the guy for a couple of years, he's an incredible human," Hedges said. "Just a guy you're always rooting for. He treats everybody well. He works hard. He leads by example. He does all of the things you would expect out of a vet."

Gose is an MLB veteran with a fresh arm for being 31 years old. He continues to feel his way around a complicated position.

"He's still at a physical peak right now," Nathan said. "He's still probably got a lot of things that he's trying to figure out with experience. But what you find is, I don't think there's ever a day when you feel you have it all figured out. That's probably the day you hang it up for good."

Gose considered for a moment being at Kauffman Stadium again, like he was for the Futures Game nearly 10 years ago, amazed at how long it's taken for him to realize his future while also feeling like it's gone by in an instant.

"A real-life roller coaster," Gose said. "It's been different."

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Sep 20, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Anthony Gose (26) is congratulated by teammates after pitching one and two thirds inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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