MLB

Gonzalez has happy-go-lucky role in Nats rotation

Share This Story

   
 

VIERA, Fla. (AP)

Before throwing his first pitch, Gio Gonzalez uses his cleat to draw a ''t'' on the mound, starting at the rubber and extending toward home plate.

When he's pitching the way he should, his right foot will always land at the base of the letter as he delivers the ball, as it did each time Monday during his bullpen session in Washington Nationals camp.

The longer vertical line keeps Gonzalez aligned with the plate. The shorter horizontal line keeps him from leaning too far forward and rushing his delivery. It's something he's been doing since his early days in the minors, a tip he learned from a pitching coach for a rookie-level team in Bristol, Va.

''He told me to use it to stay back,'' Gonzalez said, ''because I was rushing my mechanics.''

To anyone not privy to that baseball explanation, Gonzalez's drawing in the dirt looks like someone making the sign of the cross. He's OK with that, even if it's just a coincidence.

''It definitely has a little sign of respect for the man upstairs,'' he said. ''I like to keep it within that, too. Just use it for both. For not only for my pitching, but it helps me stay within my religion. ... It's cool if you see it in that aspect, but as the same time I use it more for my mechanics. It just so happened to be that's what it looks like.''

It seems there's often more than one way to get a read on Gonzalez, but that's because he's not shy about putting his moods and quirks on display. He's the outgoing, gregarious lefty of the Nationals' rotation, the locker room cut-up who collects comic books and strikeouts, the latter usually because of an unhittable curveball.

''There's always something to laugh about or make fun of him about,'' said Stephen Strasburg, by far the most guarded member of the rotation. ''He's just a character.''

When new manager Matt Williams decided to needle a player during Monday's pre-workout meeting, it was hardly surprising that Gonzalez was the target. The manager had a projection screen put up in the clubhouse and showed the team an Instagram photo in which Gonzalez proclaimed himself fashionably dressed to go out and have ''dinner in style.''

Gonzalez, of course, didn't take offense from the prank.

''He thought it was funny,'' Williams said, ''and the rest of the guys thought it was funny.''

Make no mistake, Gonzalez is important because he can pitch - no one's about to quibble with a 32-16 record and 3.12 ERA in his two seasons with the Nationals - but his personality also plays an essential role. Every team needs that player who can keep everyone loose, or supply a positive word when needed. Fellow starters Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister are low-key, and Gonzalez's embrace of the spotlight helps deflect a least a bit of the glare away from the media-shy Strasburg.

The Gonzalez-Strasburg relationship might just be the team's most intriguing locker room dynamic.

''He's such a perfectionist,'' Gonzalez said. ''He's such a strong character, that if he finds that soft spot to open up to you, especially coming from him, a guy who's about his business, straight by the books - and then when you've got a guy like me that's just happy-go-lucky, just keep it real loose - it helps out. It works out on both sides. Sometimes you need someone to tighten you up a little bit, and (sometimes) you need someone to keep you loose. That's how it works. He's yin to my yang, or something like that. Opposites attract.''

NOTES: Williams' slogan for Monday's workouts was ''There is a difference between command and control.'' So, manager, what is the difference? ''Control is within the strike zone,'' he said. ''Command is quadrants within the strike zone. You can throw strikes, but there's good strikes and bad strikes.'' ... Position players report Tuesday, although nearly all are already in camp. The only starters who hadn't arrived as of Monday afternoon were OFs Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth.

---

Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

Tagged: Nationals, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by



MLB Videos

Bautista talks Derek Jeter's final All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Jose Bautista discusses Derek Jeter's career and his final appearance in the MLB...

Jeter honored to play in last All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Derek Jeter compares his first All-Star Game experience with his last, Mike Trou...

Matheny defends Wainwright: He's out there to compete Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Mike Matheny comments on the media's reaction to Adam Wainwright's joke about le...

SimLeague Baseball - Simulation Baseball Game

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Yankees/browse/featuredproduct/606363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_606000/ff_606363_xl.jpg&w=100 27.95 Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash
    Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/1064043/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1064000/ff_1064043_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Gray http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067359/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067359_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room Pullover Hoodie - Steel http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067382/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067382_xl.jpg&w=100 54.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room 39THIRTY Flex Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067785/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067785_xl.jpg&w=100 31.95 New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Ro..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068294/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068294_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Bl..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice Performance Jersey - Black/Orange http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068787/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068787_xl.jpg&w=100 94.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice P..