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Airplane trouble delays Gio Gonzalez’s return to Nats’ rotation

Gio Gonzalez will pitch against the Brewers on Sunday afternoon.

Gio Gonzalez headed to his home town of Hialeah, Fla., over the all-star break with the expectation that Saturday would be his first start of the second half. He would arrive a tad later to Nationals Park for the 7:05 matchup with the Milwaukee Brewers and focus on the game in the clubhouse away from the media.

Instead he spent his Saturday afternoon on the field during batting practice with the rest of the Nationals’ pitching staff. A mechanical issue and a dearth of flights from South Florida to Washington forced Manager Matt Williams to move Gonzalez’s start to Sunday. Tanner Roark started Saturday night instead.

“Literally from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. [Thursday] I stayed at an airport,” Gonzalez said. “I kept informing the coaches of what was going on, and they understood. They didn’t want me to go out today and pitch because I hadn’t thrown a bullpen or anything.”

He got to the Fort Lauderdale airport at 10 a.m. Thursday for a JetBlue flight that was set to leave at 11:30. After Gonzalez boarded the plane, the pilot reached the runway and told the passengers they would be delayed because of thunderstorms.

About two hours later, Gonzalez and his fellow passengers had to get off the plane because of a mechanical issue. Without any more flights leaving Ft. Lauderdale for D.C., Gonzalez caught a cab at 5 p.m. to Miami International Airport. He couldn’t board the 6:50 p.m. flight in Miami with his luggage because he didn’t arrive 45 minutes before the flight’s scheduled departure. He then took the 8:30 p.m. flight and arrived in D.C. around 11 p.m.

“That sucked man,” Gonzalez said. “That was probably one of the worst experiences at an airport in my life.”

Gonzalez threw his bullpen session Friday after spending his break on the beach and fishing in Hialeah.

He returns with a 6-5 record and a 3.56 ERA, the most losses and highest ERA he’s had at the all-star break in his three seasons with the Nationals.

“The break just clears your mind completely,” Gonzalez said. “I needed a mental and physical break. It’s just one of those things where you shut it down, enjoy your time and come back ready to work. It’s funny because I went up to a couple guys and said ‘This is it, this is where we turn it on now.’ We have to flip the switch and get going now.”

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