About five minutes into his bullpen session today, in the middle of the Nationals’ first full squad workout, Gio Gonzalez unleashed a two-seam fastball that darted so severely it popped out of Wilson Ramos’s mitt. Gonzalez turned to pitching coach Steve McCatty and said, “I think I’m gonna end on that one.”
“What happened?” McCatty replied. “You threw a curveball that actually broke?”
Gonzalez really did finish the final three minutes of his pitching, firing more pitches through the chilling wind. The Nationals got to work with temperatures dipping into the 40s and a relentless breeze. Gonzalez, for the second, threw a bullpen session that suggested his arm is already in shape.
“It feels good if you got a star catcher like Wilson Ramos missing it,” Gonzalez said. “It lets you know your ball is moving a lot. It feels pretty good. It’s a good feeling.
“I feel like I’m ready to go now. It’s a good feeling. I got my arm in shape and I’m feeling great now. I’m looking forward to live BP.”
Gonzalez will have to be ahead of schedule, since he’s preparing for the World Baseball Classic. Gonzalez will join Team USA in the second round, which takes place in his native Miami. Team USA pitching coach Greg Maddux informed Nationals Manager Davey Johnson today that he will start March 12, presuming the US makes it through.
That will leave Gonzalez three starts with the Nationals until he leaves camp – Feb. 25 against the Mets, March 2 against the Cardinals and March 7 against the Astros. Johnson hopes Gonzalez can pitch four innings in his third start before he leaves for the WBC.
Already, Johnson has been impressed with the condition of Gonzalez’s arm, especially after today’s session. “Throwing in that wind, his curveball was wicked,” Johnson said.