Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals‘ all-star left-hander, will pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, a U.S. team spokesman said in an e-mail. Gonzalez, the lone Nationals’ representative on the U.S. roster, accepted an invitation from Team USA Manager Joe Torre.
Gonzalez, 27, one of the baseball’s best left-handers, joins a Team USA rotation of Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong and Rangers left-hander Derek Holland. Braves right-hander Kris Medlen withdrew two weeks ago because of the impending birth of his first child. Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte recently passed on an opportunity to join the team. Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander is reportedly still mulling his offer to play.
Gonzalez and outfielder Roger Bernadina (the Netherlands) are the only two Nationals major leaguers to be confirmed participants in the World Baseball Classic. Both will have to miss a few weeks of spring training with Team USA’s first game scheduled for March 8 in Phoenix. The semifinals and finals are from March 17 to 19 in San Francisco. Nationals pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Tuesday and, according to the spokesman, Team USA players are tentatively scheduled to report to their camp on March 3.
Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo previously said he would support any player who asked to play for the U.S. team and, until now, none had chosen to play.
Second baseman Danny Espinosa was listed on Team Mexico’s provisional roster announced in mid-January but has a torn labrum in his left shoulder. It’s unclear if he will play in the event. Outfielder Bryce Harper turned down an invitation to join Team USA to focus on the Nationals season.
Gonzalez is still under the cloud of a MLB investigation about his alleged connection, according to a Miami New Times report published two weeks ago, to a South Florida clinic named Biogenesis. The clinic’s chief, Anthony Bosch, according to the report, allegedly provided some of baseball’s biggest names, including Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees and Melky Cabrera of the Toronto Blue Jays, banned drugs such as human growth hormone and testosterone. Gonzalez has denied any connection to performance-enhancing drugs and Bosch.