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Blue Jays pitcher Gage has his chance

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Matt Gage is the latest poster boy because it’s never too late in baseball.

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A nine-year Minor League career and at age 29, Gage got the call on Sunday that his time had finally come.

The Blue Jays went through relievers like a family of six goes through toilet paper, so maybe the writing was on the wall for Gage.

But when you’ve spent as long as he’s waited for the call, even when the opportunity seems to present itself, you’re left in denial.

“You can, but the only problem with that is you start playing GM and you kinda get in your head about it,” Gage said, stopping in the dugout to speak to reporters before the match. “I’ve done that in the past, especially when I was younger.”

Gage didn’t come forward to say it, but he clearly stopped doing it at some point.

He readily admitted that there were times when he felt like his career would end before he even reached the major leagues.

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He attributes his opportunity today to a willingness to try everything just to stay in the game.

“I just started throwing things at a board,” Gage said. “I was in Mexico in 2019 and I was like, ‘OK, if my career is over in the United States, how can I go to Asia? How can I get better?’

“OK, yes, you can play professionally in Mexico and have a decent career, but how do you improve? That was really the goal. I was just throwing things against a wall and seeing what stuck. Luckily I found what works for my legs, arms and body rhythm and it just clicked. It was that A-Ha moment and it clicked for me.

What worked was to completely move away from the big windup and long arm action he had always thrown with, and replace it with a shorter action, to the kind of target action that kind of gave him more speed and better movement than the extended grand action he had employed.

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“I almost try to throw like a catcher (now),” Gage said. “When I was young, I had a really long arm swing. Honestly, my mechanics almost looked lazy. During (the height of) COVID, I used to watch (Lucas) Giolito pitch for the White Sox and I saw his arm shortened and he was the ace. Coming up, he was 95-97, but he was all over the place. So, I looked at him and thought, ‘I could try that.’ It was the new thing that was happening to baseball.

For some reason, the short arm action was just what Gage needed.

“I was throwing a bullpen and alternating, long arm, short arm,” Gage said. “My wife was actually standing in the batting box, and I asked the catcher, ‘Hey, what do you see? They both said that every pitch I threw with the short arm action was better. “

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Gage went from a high of 91 mph and a plateau at 86-88 to a high of 96 and steadily in the 92-94 range.

It is no longer a question of trying to create action on its grounds.

He simply throws it at the catcher’s mask and lets the normal action take him wherever he goes.

“It’s the new approach the Blue Jays taught me in spring training and it’s working,” an elated Gage said.

Gage hasn’t had much time to plan his major league debut, but assuming he comes in at some point over the next three games, he won’t be doing it alone.

On hand for his debut will be his wife, who has been through all the stages with him, his brother and his wife, both parents, his stepfather and his agent.

“Once I got the phone call, although it was not final, they all booked the flight and said we come to see you whether you are activated or not.”

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Gage was officially activated about an hour before the match was scheduled to start on Monday, but just like in his career, Gage is expected to wait a bit longer than usual.

A rain delay pushed back the start time for last night’s game with the Royals, giving Gage a bit more time to let the past day’s activity soak in.

“It’s very surreal, that’s for sure,” Gage said of the past 24 hours. “It’s crazy to have played this game for a long time and finally get my chance, it’s amazing. That’s for sure. It’s just crazy to understand that you’re going to have the chance to step on this field and be part of a big league game.

Reliever Jeremy Beasley was given the triple-A option to clear a spot on the 26-man roster for Gage. Nate Pearson, who recovered from a fight against Mono in spring training, was moved to the 60-day disabled list. The move frees up a spot on the 40-man roster for Gage, but doesn’t change anything for Pearson, as he’s been on the disabled list since April 7 and will be able to return retroactively in early June.

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