During the press conference this winter introducing 26-year-old Washington Nationals' lefty Gio Gonzalez to Nats fans, the former A's starter, acquired in a 4 for 2 deal with Oakland in December, spoke of having talked to other pitchers about working with 24-year-old Nats' backstop Wilson Ramos, explaining to reporters that he'd, "... heard [Ramos] 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."
After working with Ramos in his first start of the Spring, Gonzalez told Washington Times' Amanda Comak, as quoted in an article entitled, "Gio Gonzalez lights up the radar gun, impresses in first start", that he had complete faith in his catcher's ability to call a game. "He and catcher Wilson Ramos appeared to move seamlessly," the Washington Times' writer reported after the game, with, "Gonzalez shaking off Ramos no more than twice," in his three innings of work that day.
"'[Gonzalez] told me before the game he will throw everything I call,'" Ramos told the Times' Ms. Comak after the Grapefruit League game. That was the case again this afternoon in a start which saw the left-hander, who led the league in walks last season, walk no one in 7.0 scoreless innings of work over which he struck out seven, induced 10 groundouts and showed the D.C. Faithful just why D.C. GM Mike Rizzo had been willing to part with the prospects he did to bring the power left-hander with the cartoon curve to the nation's capital. Gonzalez was in control throughout, giving up a one-out double in the second and a two-out double in the fifth for the only Reds' hits off him this afternoon, and he and his catcher were once again able to work well together.
"Ramos did a great job," Gonzalez told MASN's Ray Knight and Johnny Holliday, "The defense did unbelievable. Today was definitely what we wanted to give the Nats fans. A 'W', and that's the way to go out, especially on Opening Day." Asked about working against hitters he hasn't faced often before, Gonzalez said, "I always depend on my catcher. I kind of take the words of Mark Buehrle, and say, 'If I make a mistake, it's definitely towards the catcher.' He calls the game. I think I must have shook off Ramos once today and it was great. We were on the same page. The chemistry was unbelievable, but again, I couldn't have done this without my defense. They did a great job."
"What I was trying to do was pitch to contact," Gonzalez continued, "But at the same time trying to pound the strike zone. Ramos has a great frame for that catcher's job, so I just try to hit his glove every time he puts the hands down and that's exactly what I was trying to do today." The Nats led 2-0 after eight, but saw closer Brad Lidge blow the save in a game the Nationals ended up winning 3-2 in ten innings. "That was a tough one to lose for Gio," Nats' manager Davey Johnson told reporters after the game. "Gio was Gio. Totally in command. Made it look easy out there. He had more in him. Just an outstanding effort and unfortunately we didn't save it for him."
The Nats' 69-year-old skipper was impressed with what he saw from Gonzalez in his second start of the season. "He had good command in and out," Johnson explained, "He was crisper, everything was crisper, from the first pitch he threw to the last pitch he threw. He actually looked like later in the game he got a little something going. I mean he started throwing a lot harder. But it was just dominating, a dominating outing." Asked if fans had seen Gio Gonzalez at his best today, or if there was still room for improvement, the manager told reporters, "The way he pitched today, and he did that some in the Spring. He's got a great feel for the ball. The curve ball is unhittable. Fastball is live. I heard that he was a little wild, well I haven't seen indications of that. He's been around the plate, even his misses are close."
Gonzalez also collected his first hit in the majors this afternoon, a result that had the pitcher smiling proudly as he reached first base on a single to right. After his hit in the bottom of the fifth, the left-hander went back to the mound and retired the Reds in order on sixteen pitches, striking shortstop Zack Cozart and first baseman Joey Votto out to end the sixth of seven scoreless innings he threw. Seven scoreless innings and his first major league hit. Not a bad result for his first start in Nationals Park. "He's a heck of an athlete," Johnson joked, "for a left-hander."
Gio Gonzalez's Line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K's, 97 P, 64 S, 10/3 GO/FO. Not bad, for a left-hander.