“He’s been fine,” pitching coach Steve McCatty said. “He and I literally have not spoken about it since we’ve been here. Just a little couple little lines on text messages, and that’s hard for me to do because I don’t do that [stuff]. But he’s doing great. It was a non-issue to me.”
On the mound, Gonzalez has been unfazed. Over five spring training starts, he allowed three earned runs in 15 innings, walking six and striking out 16. For Team USA, he pitched for Manager Joe Torre, who works in the commissioner’s office. In his one WBC start, he allowed zero runs over five innings.
Gonzalez cherished the experience with Team USA, during which he learned a tip from pitching coach Greg Maddux about calming his nerves. Focus on something small, Maddux told him, and the noise and size of the moment will melt away.
The advice will help if Gonzalez finds himself in a setting similar to the last time he climbed the mound at Nationals Park. In Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Nationals gave Gonzalez a 6-0 lead after three innings. He walked four batters in the next two innings and exited after five innings, the lead shrinking to 6-3, the collapse having started.
“Gio and I had one conversation” about the playoff start, McCatty said. “I said, ‘That’s over, and we will not talk about it again.’ No point. He knows. He pitched. Gave it everything he had that day. Maybe he got a little wired, whatever you want to call it. What’s the point in addressing it? Learn from it, and that’s all. I know he’s upset, but I think he’s handled it well.”
Gonzalez will return Wednesday night, still smiling, still slinging mid-90s fastballs and diabolical curves. He will be a testament to the Nationals’ dynamism: They can launch their season with Stephen Strasburg throwing seven scoreless innings, and then for an encore send to the mound a 27-year-old left-hander who last year won 21 games and finished third in voting for the NL Cy Young Award.
Before the year ends, Gonzalez will have to face more questions about his name landing in Biogenesis records. He and the Nationals anticipate he will be cleared. So far, they know it has not affected his baseball.
“It’s just been the same way,” Gonzalez said. “You’re going to get your ups and downs. You’re going to get your comments. But at the same time, you just got to keep moving forward. There’s nothing more to say or do about this, to be honest with you. It’s not even a story. To me, it’s like, ‘Move on.’ Just move on and look forward.”