Gio Gonzalez dealt with a shoulder issue last season which led to the first DL stint of his career, but the 29-year-old left-hander still finished his third campaign with the Washington Nationals at +3.2 fWAR, going (10-10) in 27 starts while posting a 3.57 ERA, a 3.03 FIP, 56 walks (3.18 BB/9) and 162 Ks (9.19 K/9) over 158 ⅔ IP.
Gonzalez finished strong, with a (7-6) record, a 3.08 ERA, 36 walks (3.00 BB/9) and 109 Ks (9.08 K/9) in 108 IP over 18 starts which followed the trip to the DL, holding opposing hitters to a .219/.287/.311 line over that stretch.
Before tonight's start against the New York Mets in Space Coast Stadium, he was off to a good start this Spring.
In his three previous Grapefruit League outings, Gonzalez gave up seven hits, three walks and four earned runs, with eight Ks in 8 ⅔ IP over which he held hitters to a .212 BAA. His last start was a four-inning, 62-pitch outing against Detroit in which he held the Tigers scoreless while striking out five.
Gonzalez gave most of the credit to his catcher in the post-game discussion with reporters after that game, talking about the work Wilson Ramos did behind the plate and how good his own shoulder felt after he worked hard all winter to get ready for 2015.
"I think what I was most happy with was how my arm feels," Gonzalez said.
"It feels great. I was talking about it, from the last start to now, it was just trying to pound the strike zone. Again, I have to give a lot of credit to [Wilson Ramos]. Willy did a great job just giving me a big strike zone to throw at and it almost feels like he was comfortable sticking with certain pitches that he wanted, because he started picking up on my arm slot and what I wanted him to throw down and that was a lot of credit to him for sticking to his guns."
Gonzalez was back on the mound tonight in Viera, taking on the Mets in start no.4 of the Spring...
1st: Gonzalez's fourth Grapefruit League start began with a strikeout of New York Mets' leadoff man Juan Lagares, who took an 0-2 curve for a called strike three in on the knees. Gonzalez fell behind Wilmer Flores, 3-1, caught the outside corner with a fastball that was called strike two and eventually threw a fastball by the swinging infielder for a second straight K. A fly to left by Lucas Duda should have ended the frame, but Tyler Moore, (in a seriously windy Space Coast Stadium), somehow dropped it. John Mayberry, Jr. stepped in with a runner in scoring position but grounded out to second to end a 16-pitch frame.
2nd: New Yorks' third baseman, Eric Campbell, rolled the first pitch of the Mets' second out to short where Ian Desmond handled it. Ruben Tejada took a 3-1 fastball from Gonzalez that home plate ump Ed Hickox called outside and took first base. Anthony Recker took a 1-2 curve for a called strike three. Right fielder Cesar Puello hit a 1-2 fastball to center where Michael Taylor battled the wind to make the catch for out no.3 of a 14-pitch frame that left Gonzalez at 30 pitches total, 20 strikes (strike total according to Bob Carpenter on MASN).
3rd: Mets' starter Matt Bowman took a 1-2 curve for a called strike three and Gonzalez's fourth K. Lagares grounded out to second for out no.2. Wilmer Flores worked the count full and walked when Gonzalez missed with a fastball low in the zone. Lucas Duda took the second straight walk, which had Gonzalez talking to himself on the mound as John Mayberry, Jr. stepped in, but Mayberry flew out to right to end a 20-pitch third. 50 pitches total.
4th: Eric Campbell grounded out to short on Gonzalez's fourth pitch of the fourth inning, but Ian Desmond spiked a throw to first that Ryan Zimmerman couldn't backhand. E:6. Ruben Tejada grounded into a force at second, but too weakly for any chance at a double play. Anthony Recker gave the Nationals another shot at a double play with a grounder to short, but beat the Yunel Escobar's relayed throw to first base. Two down. Cesar Puello's fly to left ended an 11-pitch inning by Gonzalez. 61 pitches total in four scoreless and hitless.
5th: Gio Gonzalez threw wide of first on a bunt by Mets' pitcher Matt Bowman, but Juan Lagares grounded to Danny Espinosa at third to start a slickly-turned, 5-4-3 DP in the next AB. Wilmer Flores lined a 1-1 fastball to right-center for a two-out single that brought Lucas Duda to the plate. Duda took an 0-1 curve for a called strike outside, spit on an 0-2 bender from Gonzalez, but K'd swinging at a 93 mph 1-2 heater upstairs. 14-pitch frame. 75 total. 5 Ks.
Gio Gonzalez's Line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 75 P, 7/4 GO/FO.
Tanner Roark took over on the mound for the Nationals in the sixth and gave up back-to-back hits, a leadoff single by John Mayberry, Jr. and an RBI double by Eric Campbell. 1-0 Mets after five and a half.
Michael Taylor was swinging on a 3-0 pitch from Mets' reliever Jeurys Familia, and he doubled to right with two down, driving Kila Ka'aihue in from second after Ka'aihue's one-out walk and a wild pitch by Familia put a runner in scoring position for the Nats. 1-1. Clint Robinson drove Taylor in with an RBI line drive double to right, 2-1, then scored on a hard-hit single to center by Ryan Zimmerman. 3-1.
Jerry Blevins gave up back-to-back home runs by Mets' pinch hitter Matt Reynolds and Juan Lagares in the first two at bats of the Mets' seventh. 3-3. A leadoff walk, hit-and-run single and sac fly off Craig Stammen in the eighth gave New York a 4-3 lead. An RBI double by Matt Reynolds made it 5-3, and a two-out, two-run home run by Matt den Dekker put the Mets up, 7-3 after seven.
The Mets added a run in the ninth on a sac fly by Matt Reynolds. 8-3 final in Viera.