VIERA, Fla. — After he reported to spring training Tuesday with the rest of the Washington Nationals’ pitchers and catchers, left-hander Gio Gonzalez expressed confidence that he will avoid a suspension as Major League Baseball investigates his reported involvement with a South Florida clinic alleged to have distributed performance-enhancing drugs to several major leaguers.
“I feel very confident,” Gonzalez said in his first public comments, a group interview truncated by a team public relations official. “At the end of the day, I’ve never taken performance-enhancing drugs, and I never will. I’m actually pretty excited about this year.”
If MLB finds evidence Gonzalez used steroids, it could levy a 50-game suspension. The league’s investigation is expected to last weeks, at minimum, as it gathers information and tries to interview players.
Gonzalez was his typical gregarious, grinning self as he met with reporters. He took less than five minutes of questioning about the case before the team official said he would not discuss the topic any further. Gonzalez held court for another 10 minutes, joking and expressing optimism about the Nationals’ chances in 2013.
Gonzalez said he has fully cooperated with MLB and its investigators, although it is unclear what the cooperation has entailed. “I feel strong with their program and what they’re doing,” Gonzalez said. “At the end of the day, it’s waiting on them.”
On Jan. 29, the Miami New Times reported that Gonzalez’s name surfaced alongside several major league stars in notebooks kept by Anthony Bosch, the chief of the Biogenesis clinic.
“You’re stunned, you’re shocked,” Gonzalez said. “Your name was brought up out of nowhere. You’re like, you can’t do nothing about it. You have to listen to what’s going on. You can’t jump the gun. You can’t jump to conclusions. At the end of the day, you have to listen in and wait patiently.”
Gonzalez had no certain explanation for why his name appeared. His father, Max Gonzalez, was also listed in the notebooks. Max Gonzalez told the New Times that he went to the clinic for weight loss. Gonzalez said the only reason for his name to appear in Bosch’s records would be his braggart father dad.
“My father already admitted he was a patient there, a legitimate patient,” Gonzalez said. “And then after that, you know how my father is. All of South Florida, all of baseball knows my father is the most proud father in baseball. He says hi, he tells everyone about his son. That’s the best I can say. Other than that, I have no clue why my name was on that list or notebook or anything.”
Gonzalez, who is from Hialeah, Fla., was mentioned five times in Bosch’s notebooks, according to the New Times, including a specific 2012 annotation that referred to an order of “Zinc/MIC/…and Aminorip” for $1,000. In records later divulged, Gonzalez’s name appears next to a substance called “pink cream,” described as a “a complex formula that also includes testosterone.” Gonzalez said he had never used any of the products.
“No,” he said. “Not at all.”
Last weekend, Gonzalez accepted an invitation to pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. He learned of the opportunity in a voicemail from Manager Joe Torre, who now works in the baseball commissioner’s office as the executive vice president for baseball operations. Gonzalez took Torre’s blessing as a positive sign.
“If you get a call from Joe Torre, you know something is going good,” Gonzalez said. “You feel confident that he believes in you, and he wants to represent you at the top of your peak. Everyone has their doubts. Everyone has their beliefs. At the end of the day, I’m still staying positive.”
In a show of his relaxed demeanor, Gonzalez joked about playing for Team USA: “Now people will know I’m actually from here.” He also reminded reporters they should feel free to share his Instagram handle — “giog47” — the better to promote the clothing line he owns.
Gonzalez flitted around the Nationals’ clubhouse as jovial as ever. Reliever Cole Kimball teased him about getting a haircut. He yelled to catcher Kurt Suzuki, “Zuk! I got something for you!” He then walked over to Suzuki’s locker and handed him a copy of Athletes Quarterly magazine — with himself on the cover. On a table, teammates had strewn black-and-white pictures of Gonzalez’s photo shoot from the magazine.
“I’m going to do my best to keep it away from the locker room and cooperate” with reporters, Gonzalez said. “At the end of the day, I don’t want this to be a distraction to the team. I don’t want any of this to be about me. At the end of the day, it’s about the team, the organization.”
Gonzalez stressed the importance of leaving the Biogenesis matter behind as he begins preparation for the 2013 season. “It’s time to move on,” he said.
Last year, in his first season with the Nationals, Gonzalez went 21-8 with a 2.89 ERA and 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings, the most in the National League. His performance garnered a third-place finish in NL Cy Young Award voting.
Gonzalez was asked if he felt he needed to prove anything in the wake of the New Times report.
“I don’t think so, man,” Gonzalez said. “Three years in a row – 15-, 16-, 21-game winner. Two-time all-star. I think my résumé speaks for itself. Same velocity. I’ve been the same guy every year. . . . It’s just going to motivate me to work even harder. Do I have to prove anything to anyone? Absolutely not. The only thing is if I want to prove something to myself.”
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