As Gio Gonzalez continued his stellar start to first Nationals spring training Sunday afternoon, he felt the kind of embarrassment that any Little Leaguer could relate to: He could hear his mother shouting for him.
“They were definitely in the top of the stands,” Gonzalez said. “My parents, I had to tell them, ‘Turn it down up there. We’re all grown men now. This ain’t Khoury League anymore.’ ”
Gonzalez pitched four scoreless innings Sunday afternoon in front of about 20 family members and friends, who had made the short drive from Hialeah, his hometown, to Jupiter. Gonzalez relished the opportunity to pitch in front of his family, who had never seen him play a major league game so close to home. And, Gonzalez promised, when the Nationals play the Marlins in Miami, the crowd will only grow.
“Imagine,” Gonzalez said. “There’s going to be more. I definitely got a nice, big fan base down in Florida.”
Sunday, Gonzalez gave them a show. He allowed two hits, both singles, and struck out two, Lance Berkman and Shane Robinson, both swinging. Gonzalez threw his fastball between 90 and 93 miles per hour. For the spring, Gonzalez has now thrown seven scoreless innings, allowing one walk and striking out four.
“I’ve still got more work to do,” Gonzalez said. “There’s a lot of positive things I could take from today, and a couple of negative things. I definitely want to work on my timing, my composure. There’s a little bit of things. This is spring training. This is where you’ve got to get your stuff out of the way now.
Said Manager Davey Johnson: “He’s been nothing but superb all through the spring.”
Before the game, Johnson said he had not ruled out starting Gonzalez on opening day against the Chicago Cubs. “He’s probably a candidate,” Johnson said.
Rain suspended the game with the Nationals’ leading 1-0 after four innings, the tarp rolling over the infield moments after Gonzalez threw his 51st and final pitch. Gonzalez retired Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina just before a drizzle turned into a downpour.
“It was tough,” Gonzalez said. “It almost got to the point where I’m telling Molina, ‘Here’s a fastball, hit it, please! I’m drenched over here.’ ”
>>> Henry Rodriguez, Sean Burnett and Matt Purke would have followed Gonzalez on the mound, and instead they will pitch tomorrow in relief. Johnson wants Purke to make one more appearance with the Nationals before they send him to minor league camp. With Johnson set to make his first round of cuts Monday, Purke will likely be included.
>>> Adam LaRoche had another solid showing in his second game of the spring, going 1 for 2 with a single. LaRoche is still slightly restricted because of his sprained left ankle; Johnson told him not to try to score from second base on a single to avoid a setback.