The last time Gio Gonzalez pitched, he wore “USA” across his chest and walked to the middle of a diamond inside Marlins Park, a colossus of a major league stadium. Today, clad in a red practice jersey, Gonzalez pitched on Field 3 against a collection of minor leaguers from his own organization.
“It’s the same here,” Gonzalez said. “You get adrenaline. It’s fun, but once you cross the line, you know it’s business. I can take it as a joke all I want, but at the same time, they’re doing stuff and they’re taking it serious. I think the minor league side is always a good place. It’s always a reality check.”
In an intrasquad minor league game, Gonzalez got back to work after his return from the World Baseball Classic. After five day’s rest, he fired 87 pitches (59 strikes) over six innings, up from his previous spring highs of 87 pitches and five innings. Against players slated for Class AA, he allowed seven hits, mostly in the early innings, and walked none while allowing a run. He struck out nine and sat at 92-93 miles per hour with his fastball.
In the fifth inning, Gonzalez struck out top prospect Anthony Rendon flailing at a curveball in the dirt, then came back and whiffed Matt Skole swinging through a blistering high fastball. He ended the day striking out Brian Goodwin, another one of the Nationals’ best hitting prospects.
“My arm felt alive,” Gonzalez said. “Working on it. Still trying to generate more power, more strength out of the arm.”
One other observation from the minor league game: Blake Treinen, the right-handed pitcher who came to the Nationals from Oakland along with A.J. Cole in the Michael Morse trade, started opposite Gonzalez and showed some nasty stuff. He struck out one hitter swinging over a 94-mph sinker that dropped into the dirt like a rock. He figures to start the year at Class AA Harrisburg, and he’s a name to remember.