Gio Gonzalez won’t pitch as regularly scheduled on Tuesday, and instead will rest at the request of the Nationals, ahead of his start in the opening game of the Nationals’ divisional round. Jordan Zimmermann will be the Game 2 starter, Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said.
Because the Nationals’ first round opponent has yet to be determined – they could play on Saturday or Sunday – Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty felt it was best to give Gonzalez the time off to rest. Gonzalez’s regular schedule would have him pitching on Sunday. But if the Nationals lose the top seed in the National League to the Cincinnati Reds over the next two games, their opening round would begin on Saturday and the left-hander would pitch on shorter rest and the Nationals wanted to avoid that.
Gonzalez said he was ready to pitch on Tuesday, but was told during Monday night, after the Nationals clinched a playoff, that he wouldn’t be pitching the following day. Left-handed long reliever Tom Gorzleanny, a former starter, would start instead and be held to a pitch count limit of 65, or roughly three to four innings.
It’s the first time Gonzalez has pitched in the postseason and had to adjust his schedule so that he can throw the opening game. As a result, he said he is unsure exactly how he’ll handle the time off. He will likely throw long toss or a bullpen session over the next week, anxious to pitch often to stay fresh.
“I need to throw, I need to still stay in shape, still stay where I need to be,” Gonzalez said. “[McCatty] understood that 100 percent. You get one of those things where I’m still training hard, trying to get ready for the next start.”
If Gonzalez starts on Saturday, he’ll have eight days off in between starts; Sunday would be give nine days of rest. The longest rest he had in between starts this season was six days.
“It can work either way,” he said. “You get too much rest you don’t know how you’re going to feel. Not enough rest, it could be hit or miss. But at this point, it’s a learning curve for me. I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m going to try to go out there and try some pens and long toss and do whatever I gotta do to get back in shape. Keep watching video. Keep watching these guys pitch. Just mentally get myself where I need to be.”
Johnson said the No. 3 and No. 4 starters for the Nationals opening playoff round would hinge on their opponent. If the Nationals are facing right-handed heavy St. Louis, Edwin Jackson is the obvious candidate to pitch after Zimmermann. If they face Atlanta, Ross Detwiler, or possibly John Lannan, are candidates. But for the opening game, Johnson is turning to the team’s 21-game winner, a leading NL Cy Young candidate.
“I know that they have high hopes for me and you take it as an honor,” Gonzalez said. “They got something planned for me and I want to go out there and try to show this team that I’m going to go out there and try to do the best I can. I want to get enough rest but not too much.”