Pitching for Class A Potomac on Friday night in his first rehab start as he nears a return from left shoulder inflammation, Gio Gonzalez allowed eight runs on seven hits — including a grand slam — while walking four and hitting a batter against the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Despite the rough outing — and results matter less on rehab assignments — Gonzalez said his shoulder feels good.
“It’s definitely a work in process going from spring training to building it up to shutting it down and then going back at it again,” said Gonzalez, who is on the disabled list for the first time in his seven-year major league career. “To make the wheels go, you’ve got to crank them up and try to find where you’re at. It’s just good to know that my body feels good and my arm feels good.”
Gonzalez, who has been on the disabled list since May 18, said his shoulder felt “really good.” His first two innings were strong as he induced five groundouts and struck out one. But his command wavered in the third and fourth innings. All four walks were on four pitches. He gave up the grand slam in the third inning and couldn’t get out of the fourth, leaving with two outs and at 65 pitches, his predetermined limit. He threw 34 strikes, and his fastball sat around 91 mph, hitting 93 mph.
Gonzalez used primarily fastballs and the Blue Rocks hitters pounced. such as the grand slam. He left pitches up in the zone, but Gonzalez insisted that wasn’t because of his shoulder. He was suffering from overall body fatigue, he said, after being out for so long. (He threw a simulated game on Sunday and 50-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday.)
“Arm felt great. I just need to get back to throwing a little bit more. But I’ll be fine,” Gonzalez said. “My body started dying out a little bit. First two innings was on top of the ball. And then it started getting a little flat. They started seeing that. They were patient and they put the bat on the ball.”
The Nationals’ original rehab plan called for perhaps only this start for Gonzalez, who could then rejoin the rotation as soon as June 11 in San Francisco. After Friday’s 3 2/3-inning effort, Gonzalez said the next step would be determined in talking with Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty and Manager Matt Williams via telephone.
“Hopefully meet the guys out there in San Francisco, but that’s a discussion I’ll have to finish with them two and see what they want and maybe they feel I may need one more start down here,” Gonzalez said. “I’ll find out [Saturday].”
Gonzalez’s first trip to the DL has been an usual feeling for him. The durable left-hander had thrown at least 195 innings each of the past four seasons, a feat to be appreciated in the modern climate of pitcher injuries.
“It’s definitely a work in process going from spring training to building it up to shutting it down and then going back at it again,” he said. “To make the wheels go, you’ve got to crank them up and try to find where you’re at. It’s just good to know that my body feels good and my arm feels good.”
Gonzalez is unsure what caused the shoulder inflammation or what can be done to avoid it in the future. “If I knew that. I would have made the adjustment from there,” he said. “There’s a first time for anything. It’s a work in progress and something I have to learn throughout my career and made the adjustments. It’s good that it happened now while the team is getting and I want to jump in at a perfect time.”
Despite the rough outing, Gonzalez received a standing ovation from the crowd, many there to see him pitch. He high-fived every Potomac player before walking off the mound into the dugout in the fourth inning.
“That’s actually pretty cool,” he said. “Fans came out and took the time to show some love. They are more about the person than the player, so that means a lot.”