FRISCO, Texas — One night after Joey Gallo made his Double-A debut by smacking a walk-off three-run home run for Frisco, it was Alex "Chi Chi" Gonzalez’s turn to get his first taste of life in the Texas League.
Gonzalez, 22, the Rangers’ No. 6 prospect according to Baseball America who was the 23rd overall pick in the 2013 June draft didn’t disappoint.
The right-handed starter pitched five scoreless innings for Frisco, striking out six batters while allowing just one hit and walking none.
"It was fun. It was five innings. They told me to focus on keeping the ball down, did a good job with that, got a lot of ground balls and then a few pop flies that were just missed barrels," Gonzalez said postgame. "But I was around the strike zone with every pitch, so I was happy with that."
All told, he threw 61 pitches in his Frisco debut, 38 of those strikes.
Gonzalez, who was recalled from High Single-A Myrtle Beach on Sunday, was 5-2 with a 2.62 ERA, 49 strikeouts, 16 walks and a 1.102 WHIP in 11 starts for the Pelicans.
He needed just 10 pitches in both the first and second innings. His longest inning pitch wise came in the fourth when he needed 17 pitches to get through the frame.
The lone blemish on his debut came in the top of the fifth when Midland right fielder Josh Whitaker lined the first pitch of the inning to left field. It appeared that RoughRiders left fielder Trever Adams had caught Whitaker’s blooper into shallow left field, but the ball was ruled a hit after the umpire determined Adams had trapped the ball.
"Yeah, I think he (Adams) caught it, but the umpire said it was a trapped ball," Gonzalez said. "After that, I was just focusing on getting the next guys out. Of course, I was hoping it would be overturned, but it happened."
However, Gonzalez pulled things together, striking out Midland’s next hitter, Anthony Aliotti, and then getting Kent Matthes and Miles Head to fly out to center field to end the fifth.
And after retiring Head for the third out, he learned from Frisco manager Jason Wood that his night was finished as the âRiders were leading Midland 3-0.
According to RoughRiders pitching coach Jeff Andrews, the plan for Gonzalez’s debut was to pitch five innings or 75 pitches, whichever came first.
"Well, we’re always in the monitor innings mode. We’re always looking out for our guys and we’re just halfway through (the season) right now," Andrews said. "It’s a time where we just kind of gather our thoughts about them and make sure he’s healthy and make sure he can get his second wind. Thank goodness five came before 75. That’s always a good way to look at it, so his work was done after five."
Gonzalez said he wasn’t the least bit nervous on the mound at Dr Pepper Ballpark on Tuesday night, at least not once the game began. But when he was throwing in the bullpen before the start of the series finale with the Rockhounds, it was a much different story.
"He had a couple of misfires in the bullpen that kind of made me open my eyes. But during the game, it was just the exact opposite. And I guess if you had to choose which one you would rather have, you’d rather have the misfires in the bullpen and take as sharp as he was in the game and run with that," Andrews said.
Since Gonzalez and Joey Gallo were both recalled from Myrtle Beach on Sunday, they are currently roommates at a local hotel until they can find permanent housing. And when Gallo hit a three-run walk-off in his Double-A debut on Monday, Gonzalez knew he would have to try to match or better what his roommate and good friend had accomplished one night before.
"Yeah, we were talking about it in our room. He got a home run in his debut and he was telling me to match it. He said hitting a home run in his debut is like a pitcher throwing a no-hitter in their debut, so that was in the back of my mind too," Gonzalez said. "When I gave up that hit, I was like, he beat me to it."
Overall, Andrews was pleased with his newest starter’s strong showing in his debut. However, as the longtime pitching coach is fond of saying, there are always things for any pitcher, no matter what level he is playing at, to work on, and Gonzalez is no exception.
"I was very happy. He pitched with his fastball pretty well, much better location and rhythm in his delivery than I saw in the spring. He only threw a couple changeups today and a couple curveballs, and those are his practice things. That’s what we’re going to work on the side and during week, gain that confidence," Andrews said. "Not every game’s going to be like this. You’re not going to throw like this every game and I think he’s smart enough to know that. He’s an intelligent enough kid to know that there’s still a lot of work ahead."