After he pitched four innings at Space Coast Stadium this afternoon, Gio Gonzalez stood at his locker with a stuffed suitcase at his feet. Teammates lingered around him, their lockers empty. “Everyone’s already mentally in D.C. right now, ready to go,” he said.
Before the Nationals boarded their flight out of the Grapefruit League, Gonzalez finalized his spring training with a dominant performance against the Mets, who used a lineup of mostly minor leaguers. Gonzalez allowed no runs on one hit and two walks, striking out seven in only four innings. He threw 66 pitches, a final tuneup for his April 3 debut as the Nationals’ No. 2 starter.
“It’s just trying to get work in a little bit, pound that first-pitch strike, get the first out of every inning,” Gonzalez said.
One scout clocked Gonzalez’s fastball between 89 and 93 miles per hour, his two-seam fastballs hovering near the low end and his four-seamer nearing the mid-90s.
“Still trying to get that arm strength back,” Gonzalez said. “Still trying to build velocity, this and that. As the innings went on, arm felt better. Just one step at a time. Today’s today. Tomorrow, we work on more stuff, more exercises, stuff like that.”
The Nationals’ finished off a 5-1 victory over the Mets, which included home runs from Adam LaRoche, who finished spring on a hot streak, and Danny Espinosa, who hit two homers in the final week with his new-and-improved left-handed swing.
Bryce Harper returned to the lineup after missing one game with inflammation in his left thumb. He went 1 for 1 with a single and a sacrifice fly. In his final 12 plate appearances in Florida, Harper went 10 for 10 with a walk and the sac fly.
Rafael Soriano closed out the game with a scoreless ninth, highlighting his breaking ball as he pitched for the second consecutive day. He untucked his shirt after his third out, and second strikeout of the inning. The Nationals lined up and slapped hands, their Grapefruit League schedule in the books with a 13-17-2 record.
“I’m ready to go,” Gonzalez said. “I’m ready to jump on that plane and head back to D.C. Get something to eat up there – something nice and different from Viera, Fla.”