Port St. Lucie, Fla.- Gio Gonzalez made his first start of the spring a good one, throwing two hitless innings as the Nationals beat the Mets in front of 3,611 fans at Tradition Field.
Gonzalez fought through a couple of errors by shortstop Zach Walters and second baseman Steve Lomardozzi, managing to get out of a 2nd and 3rd, two out jam. Gonzlaez walked one and struck out three and threw 35 pitches, 19 for strikes. “I felt good and I was having fun out there but the most important part was you see everyone that was playing was having fun,” Gonzalez said.
“I think Snyd (Chris Snyder) did a great job behind the plate. He is such a hard target to miss and he did a great job. Corey Brown making a great play for me so, it’s fun to watch these guys go out and compete at the best level. Now, it’s just a matter of pounding the strike zone and getting them back in the dugout as quick as possible. By the way they were swinging it, they were having fun.”
Gonzalez has two more starts as he prepares to pitch in the World Baseball Classic in which his first game with Team USA will be in Miami.
He has been answering questions about being linked to the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in Miami run by Anthony Bosch maintaining his innocence all along. He admits it nice to just think about baseball.
“Yea, it was good to get back on the mound and get back at it,” he said.
“Especially with the fan support I was getting out there, it nice to hear them support you. There were butterflies and that’s nice to have that feeling of butterflies which is a good thing. It means baseball hasn’t left your emotions. When I got the first pitch out of the way, I was just excited to go and play my game.”
But Gonzalez also didn’t know what kind of reaction he would get from the fans. “You want to go out there and have fun. I think my job was to go out there and pound the strike zone. You don’t know what the reaction of the fans is going to be, you are pitching in someone else’s ballpark. But, when you have a lot of people supporting you and showing you love, that means a lot too.”
Hollywood not kind to Gio
When Gonzalez met with reporters in the clubhouse after his two innings of work, he was sporting a nice little rug burn right above the right eye.
“Messin around with my dog and she gave me a rug burn,” he said.
“I hate her, then I love her, and I look here in the face and I love her again.” “She’s a French bulldog,” he said laughing wanting to come up with a better excuse. “That’s what I should have said; I took one off the forehead. No, Hollywood, I’m going to blame it on my dog.”
Mattheus closes it out
Nats pitcher Ryan Mattheus closed the door with a two run lead in the bottom of the 9th giving up a one-out single but then striking out the last two batters he faced.
Mattheus went 5-3 last season in 66 appearances with an ERA of 2.84 and despite that great year, he takes nothing for granted heading into this longer than normal spring.
“I’m kind of easing into it now saying I have a spot on the team or getting complacent or anything like that but I had a bigger work load than I had at any time in my career so, I’m taking it easy from that standpoint,” he said.
Nonetheless, there he was in a save situation in the 9th.
“The first time out is tough no matter what inning you are throwing. That’s what I like to throw in the ballgame. I came in the minor leagues in the bullpen as a closer and I hope to be a closer in the Major Leagues some day so it’s nice to get out there in that situation.”
Bring out the bats
The Nationals banged out 17 hits against Mets pitching and what impressive was the way the offense came together in the third inning.
Eury Perez, who had three infield hits on the night, reached on a single to deep second base. Steve Lombardozzi then doubled him home. Tyler Moore came through with an RBI single and then Carlos Rivero doubled home the third run of the inning.
“It was good to see us get some hits back-to-back there and get something going,” Lombardozzi said. “It was a fun night and good to see some of the younger guys get some knocks.”
Nathan Karns was outstanding in his two innings of relief for the Nationals. Karns was drafted in the 12th round of the 2009 Amateur Draft and went 11-4 between both Hagerstown and Potomac last season and he pitched two innings Monday night allowing one hit and striking out three.
“Yea, I was a little nervous in the pen, I’m not going to lie,” Karns said. “It’s been a long time, especially the first outing under the lights. It was a little something special and it was nice and it was a great turnout so you can’t ask for more out of it.”
A Brave(s) new world
The Nationals travel to Disney on Tuesday to face the Braves. Ross Detwiler goes for the Nats while the Braves send out Mike Minor. Game time is 1:05.