D.C. GM Mike Rizzo described 26-year-old lefty Gio Gonzalez as a, "... a front-line starter with glowing credentials the vast majority of which were achieved before his 26th birthday," in a press release on the deal that got the Washington Nationals the pitcher they'd been searching for all winter. The left-hander, Rizzo said, is, "... a young power-throwing left-hander. He's got plus, plus stuff. Being a left-hander was really a key to this. We feel that he matches up very nicely between our two power right-handers [Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann]."
Gonzalez joins the Nats after a (16-12) 2011 season with the A's in which he had a 3.12 ERA, 3.64 FIP, a league-leading 91 walks (4.05 BB/9) and 197 K's (8.78 K/9) in 32 starts and 202.0 IP. With the '04 1st Round pick pitching alongside the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick and '07 2nd Round pick, the Nats' GM said the Nationals have, "... 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." In an MLB Network Radio interview with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern this afternoon, the pitcher said he's ready to get started with his new team...
• Listen to an excerpt of the interview via @MLBNetworkRadio.
"I'm extremely excited," Gonzalez said this afternoon, "A little sad I left Oakland, but I'm happy that it's a new beginning and positive feedback. I've been getting a lot of phone calls from the [Nationals'] coaching staff and from the owners and stuff like that. They seem so excited and all you can do is get excited with them. I've been training even harder, I'm putting in extra work. I'm training every hour if I could and I know how important this [is] to them and to the Nationals and I'm ready to go. Just give me a baseball and I'm ready to rock and roll."
Leaving Oakland was rough the now-former A's lefty said. When he spoke to Billy Beane about the deal, he said his former GM explained that, "'It was a tough situation for us Gio, that we were put in. We didn't want to do this, but at the same time we understand that this is what it is, it's business. And we appreciate everything you've done for us and I've put you in a good spot where they are out there, they're trying to rebuild, they're doing the same thing, they're going to be a contending team,' you could hear all the positive things that he was saying. And that's the only thing that made me [feel] really good and comfortable about what he did for me. That, to me, I appreciated. Even through everything he's done for me, I deeply appreciated this one the most."
The Nationals' GM told reporters after the trade that he's been really impressed with the growth he's seen from the pitcher. "He's really matured in his approach to the game," Rizzo said, "He's a student of the game, and with his stuff, he's got a 90-95 mph fastball, it will touch 96 at times and we've had him on PitchFx up to that speed. He's got a power breaking ball that he can throw in any count. He can throw it in the strike zone, he can throw it as a swing and miss pitch out of the strike zone. He's got a very good changeup that he uses a lot against right-handed hitters and he's got a moxie and an attitude on the mound that we like, so to us he fits right in there."
Gonzalez seemed equally impressed with what he's heard about the team he's set to join. "I think it's great. I've talked to some players from the National League, and some of them have said, 'You guys have an unbelievable pitching rotation. And your lineup is really good, I wouldn't be surprised if you guys make the playoffs this year.' And this is coming from a big name hitter. He gave all the respect in the world for Zimmermann and Strasburg, where he said, 'These guys, to be in that rotation, bro? You're going to be taken care of,' as in, you can watch these guys and learn a little bit off them."
"And that's what I've always liked to do," Gonzalez explained, "I've always fed off watching the pitcher before me and the pitcher after me, because it sets it up just to see what the hitter was doing that day, if he was a little off-balance, stuff like that. So, I kind of joke around in the dugout, but I always have one eye staring at the hitter, just keeping an eye out what he did in that situation, in the hitter's situation and the pitcher's situtation. So, I'm excited to be in that rotation. With these guys. And especially when they're out there looking for a playoff contending team and a team that's looking to win the World Series."
The Nationals' GM said the addition of Gonzalez gives Washington a rotation "in the realm of something" never seen before in the nation's capital. Can Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmermann take the Nats to a realm they've never visited before? Are the Nationals now a playoff team?