The Washington Nationals introduced left-handed starter Gio Gonzalez (@GioGonzalez47) to the D.C. press corps this afternoon in a press conference at Nationals Park. The 26-year-old former Oakland A was presented with his new no. 47 Nats jersey and red curly-W cap. The attention he got was something new according to Gonzalez, who spoke to reporters after the official ceremony was over. "This is a first for me," the '04 (White Sox') 1st Round pick said, "I've really never experienced this. I've only gotten this kind of press after games. But to get it just for a trade and a signing? This is unbelievable. And to do it with my family and to a new city and a new team, I think it's going to be great."
Gonzalez, in an MLB Network Radio interview following the trade from Oakland, said A's GM Billy Beane had talked to him after he was dealt and told him he had found a good spot for him in D.C. with a team that was building and hoping to contend sooner rather than later. Gonzalez expressed excitement about his new home and new teammates, telling reporters, "I still look at it, the offense, the defense that we have, we're going to be around for quite a while, and hopefully we can get this championship out of the way and try to get a couple of them while I'm still here."
After the trade, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo talked about the left-hander bringing, "... a presence in our rotation. He's had success. He's been a workhorse," Rizzo said, "He's very, very young. Just turned 26. Accomplished a lot of things before his 26th birthday, and gives us a young core of starting pitchers at the major league level that really is in the realm of something that we've never had here before." Asked about his repertoire and what he thought he brings to the Nationals, Gonzalez said he tried to focus on, "Keeping the ball down, absolutely. Especially with power hitters, if you can you have to work around their power. You have to find their weakness and go out there and try to find it immediately.
"I've had some great defense in Oakland," Gonzalez continued, "Where these guys helped out a lot and got me out of a lot of sticky situations and I had great catchers, both of them and I'm hoping that the catchers we have [with the Nationals] and especially the defense we have, they're going to get me out of a lot of tough situations." The power left-hander said he's heard good things about the catcher he'll be working with in D.C., Wilson Ramos. "I heard he was fantastic. I heard he can call a game, you can close your eyes and feel comfortable to throw to this guy. That's definitely the kind of catcher I love to have. He takes all the stress and pressure off you. I always quote Mark Buehrle, if I give up a home run, it was the catcher's fault."
"That's the kind of goal I want to go with," Gonzalez said, "We're both going to do our homework, we're both going to study the team, but he should have touch and feel and all that stuff, so, no pressure on him, but it's on you, buddy!" Asked what he personally needed to work on, Gonzalez, who led the majors in walks last season, acknowledged that it was important to cut down on the free passes. "Obviously I have to attack the strike zone," the newest Nats' starter said, "That's a main key right there, but hopefully within time I get in good with the umpires, I don't know, I might have to take them to dinner or something like that...
"I'm definitely going to try to work on that," Gonzalez continued referring to the high walk totals, "I'm pretty sure working with our pitching coach Steve [McCatty], he's going to help me out. We've got a lot of work to do, and I'm excited, this is going to be a new season and a new era." Successful as he's been thus far in his career, Gonzalez said he knows walking less batters could take him to another level. "If I can get past the walk situation," he said, "I think it balances out where I can go out there and now finally get some more innings, probably compete a little bit harder, probably get into playoff situations, there's a lot of stuff that I still need to polish and I need to dust off. I'm not saying I'm going to be perfect, but I will strive to be."