PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Marco Gonzales and the Seattle Mariners found themselves in a playoff race last season, and they can’t wait to have another shot at it.
An 18-8 September launched the Mariners into a wild-card scramble with Boston, Toronto and the New York Yankees. In the end, the Mariners finished with 90 wins — despite having a negative run differential for the season — and fell just short of the postseason.
The lockout didn’t dampen any enthusiasm. Gonzales, who started 1-5 with a 6.00 ERA through July 1 before winning nine straight decisions, certainly is ready to go.
“Feeling rejuvenated,” Gonzales said. “I think I learned a lot last year.”
Gonzales ended the season 10-6 with a 3.96 ERA, second on the staff in wins and ERA to Chris Flexen.
“We all have very high standards for Marco, but those are even less than what he holds himself to,” catcher Tom Murphy said.
Gonzales said, “It was a big growing year for me,. for my family. Being able to finish the year strong, with the electricity and energy this team had, it was a joy to be a part of.”
He also experienced joy off the field. His wife, Monica, gave birth to the couple’s first child, Grace, last summer. The 30-year-old left-hander said he didn’t mind the longer offseason.
“It was out of the ordinary, really precious time with my wife and my baby girl,” Gonzales said. “That time, just soaking up those moments, is priceless.”
Now that the season is back on, Gonzales said the energy is camp has been “really great.”
Gonzales will get Seattle’s first start of the shortened spring on Friday in Peoria against the San Diego Padres.
“I’d love to get him out for a third inning,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said Thursday. “Typically, the first time out it’s just an inning or two. but our guys are a little bit farther along.”
Joining Flexen, Gonzales and Logan Gilbert in the rotation is reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray. With Toronto last season, Ray led the American League in ERA (2.84) and strikeouts (248).
“Really enjoyed getting to know him,” Gonzales said of Ray. “He’s a big family guy, we’re gonna get along great. I’m looking forward to watching him pitch. I’ve been a fan of his and I hope to learn a little bit from him.”
With young players like outfielders Jarred Kelenic and prospect Julio Rodriguez — who may arrive in the big leagues this season — joined by acquisitions Adam Frazier, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez, optimism is high for the Mariners to finally end their now 20-year postseason drought.
“We got some new guys to add to that fuel, but we don’t put expectations on ourselves,” Gonzales said. “If anything, we put expectations on the work and the preparation that you do every day.”
Murphy echoed those thoughts.
“Expectations are for other people,” the catcher said. “We have a standard that we hold ourselves to every day, and if we meet that, we’re going to be right where we need to be.”
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