Nationals' Gio Gonzalez returns to mound tonight after abbreviated outing vs LAA

Bob Levey

Washington Nationals' lefty Gio Gonzalez left his last start after just five innings and 83 pitches when he experienced tightness in his shoulder. Gonzalez said after the game he was fine and he's set to take the mound tonight in Houston.

In the midst of an injury-filled month like the one the Washington Nationals having been going through in April, you can forgive Nats fans if they expected the worst when Gio Gonzalez was lifted from his last start this past Wednesday night after just five innings and 83 pitches in what was then a 1-0 game in favor of the Nationals.

After the game, Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters that the 28-year-old left-hander was dealing with shoulder tightness.

"I feel fine now. Did all my exercises. Feel great. On to the next question." - Nats' Gio Gonzalez after abbreviated outing in D.C.

"Going out for the fifth inning, it's a little cold night tonight, Gio had a little shoulder tightness tonight," Williams explained.

"Ordinarily I wouldn't take him out of the game there," the first-year skipper said, "but we want to make sure that he's okay for our future too. So, cold and windy and he had a little bit of tightness so we wanted to make sure he's okay."

Gonzalez was fine before the start and wasn't dealing with any issues before he took the mound in Nationals Park.

"He was good before the game," Williams said. "He's never really had an injury, so we don't expect this one to be an injury. But there's a little tightness there, so we don't take any chance with him."

Gonzalez, for his part, said he would be ready for his next start and didn't seem to interested in discussing the shoulder issue. "I feel fine now," he said. "Did all my exercises. Feel great. On to the next question."

"He's never really had an injury, so we don't expect this one to be an injury. But there's a little tightness there..." - Matt Williams on Gio Gonzalez after last start in D.C.

Williams updated reporters on the left-hander's status on Saturday morning though the reports were overshadowed slightly by the bad news on Bryce Harper's injured left thumb. Gonzalez, however, Williams said, was fine and ready to make his next start.

"He's fine," the Nats' skipper said. "With the off day coming, he's got an extra day's rest, so he'll probably push his pen back a day, which potentially could be [Sunday] and see where he's at. But he threw the day after he pitched and felt fine. Felt good yesterday. Took BP yesterday and everything is good. So we anticipate him being okay."

Gonzalez is scheduled to take the mound for the sixth time this season tonight in Houston's Minute Maid Park in the first game of the Nationals' two-game set with the Astros. In his career, the southpaw has faced the 'Stros twice, and he's (2-0) with a 1.69 ERA, four walks (2.25 BB/9) and 15 Ks (8.44 K/9) in 16 IP against Houston in which he's held opposing hitters to a .200/.262/.218 line.

In his one previous career start in Minute Maid Park, Gonzalez hit his first career home run and held the Astros to nine hits and three runs in a complete game win.

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