A’s looking for repeat performance from Gonzalez

Gio Gonzalez works the room in the Oakland Athletics clubhouse

as well as he works the plate.

Before the team takes the field, he stops at just about every

dressing cubicle, telling a joke, imparting wisdom, swinging a

fungo. He takes the pulse and increases it if he senses the

need.

”I’m not necessarily trying to be a leader, but you’ve got to

know your teammates. You’ve got to break the ice,” he said. ”A

lot of these guys played here before. Some didn’t. They’re fresh

faces. You want to make them feel loose, not feel so smothered.

After all, you’re with these guys for eight, nine months.”

The left-hander developed into one of the most reliable starters

on the team last season, posting a 15-9 record with a 3.23 ERA. He

did not miss a start – 33 games.

He and the team are looking for a repeat performance, or an even

better one, and he has the confidence that he can do it. The

reason, he said, is that he has matured into a better overall

pitcher, physically and mentally.

”I’m learning to make adjustments, not spiral out of control

mentally if something goes wrong,” he said. ”I’m learning to let

my defense work for me. Strikeouts are good if you can get them,

but they are not the only reason for success.”

He recalls conversations with former Oakland pitcher Justin

Duchscherer, now with Baltimore.

”He said, ‘Would you rather have 15 strikeouts in five innings

or have eight strong innings with only two strikeouts,”’ said

Gonzalez, who had 171 last season.

”It’s easy to say ”strikeouts,’ but then you start to think

the other way. It took awhile for me to understand that, but a lot

of it makes sense.”

The learning process continues by analyzing opposing hitters.

Many do that by watching video, but Gonzalez said he seems to get

more out of seeing the hitters in person.

Growing along with some of the other starters in what is one of

the American League’s best young rotations involves talking with

his colleagues.

”We build that friendship and we are there for each other,” he

said. ”We talk about certain hitters. We have a friendly

competition. They are fun to watch and be around.”

It is a rotation that, according to Oakland manager Bob Geren,

”not too many managers wouldn’t trade for. There’s not just

quality, but youth.”

NOTES: Geren will use several players at shortstop as he eases

starter Cliff Pennington (left shoulder) back into action, probably

by the second week of spring games. Backup Adam Rosales (right

foot) might not be ready until May 1. … Kurt Suzuki will start

most games at catcher, and Josh Donaldson is pushing Landon Powell

for more time as the backup. … New DH Hideki Matsui was due to

arrive from Japan late Friday, will film a commercial for a

Japanese company on Saturday and join the club for the first day of

full workouts on Monday.