Stephen Strasburg’s latest injury raised serious questions about the Washington Nationals’ rotation going forward.
Dusty Baker told reporters on Thursday that someone would have to step up.
Baker was asked about Joe Ross potentially returning, but the Nats’ skipper said the Nationals wouldn’t rush the rehab process with the 23-year-old righty.
“I tell you who does come into play, big time,” Baker said, “guys like [A.J.] Cole, [Lucas] Giolito, [Reynaldo] Lopez and probably even more importantly, Gio Gonzalez.”
Gonzalez, who’s had an up-and-down 2016 campaign, took a seven-start unbeaten streak into Sunday afternoon’s series finale with the Philadelphia Phillies.
He was, however, coming off a brief three-inning start against the Atlanta Braves in which he gave up eight hits and six earned runs in just three innings, throwing 85 pitches before he was lifted from what ended up a 9-7 Nationals’ win.
Gonzalez talked after that outing about running into a wall toward the end of a long season.
“It’s September,” Gonzalez said, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo:
“So, try doing it from February to September. It’s a long, gruesome thing. You’re going to hit a wall. Tonight definitely wasn’t my best. I’ll take that one in however many starts.”
Gonzalez tossed 6 1⁄3 scoreless against the Nationals’ NL East rivals from the City of Brotherly Love on Sunday before Phillies’ first baseman Tommy Joseph broke up his shutout bid with a solo home run in the top of the seventh, sending a 3-1 change to deep center field to tie it up at 1-1.
Gonzalez finished the seventh and the Nationals took the lead in the bottom of the inning, so the left-hander got the decision in what ended up a 3-2 win.
Baker said he was impressed with the way Gonzalez bounced back.
He and pitching coach Mike Maddux told the lefty he was an important part of the rotation before his latest outing.
“We talked the other day and I told him that he’s very important in this equation,” Baker said, “especially with Stras out and he responded.”
“This start was a good bounce-back and step in the right direction,” Gonzalez told reporters including MASN’s Mark Zuckerman:
“Especially having Mad Dog and Dusty kind of like, ‘Hey, we’re going to need you to kind of focus a little bit more,’ that’s exactly it. I just wanted to have a good bounce-back.”
“He responded great today,” Baker added. “He gave up the solo home run to Joseph, that was on a very good pitch in a very good count and he threw up a number of double plays. He was unfazed by the error when the ball took a bad hop on Danny [Espinosa]. He was dealing. He had that changeup working. He was ahead in the count most of the time with that fastball and it was well-located and he seemed like a guy on a mission.”
• We talked about Gonzalez’s outing, the Nationals’ rotation questions and more on the latest edition of Nats Nightly: