Gonzalez's latest adjustment pays off
After struggling early, hurler alters mechanics, finishes off Fish
JUPITER, Fla. -- After allowing three runs and throwing 47 pitches over his first two innings Tuesday, Gio Gonzalez got some advice from a teammate.
And it worked.
Nationals third baseman Mark DeRosa walked over to Gonzalez in the third inning and told him, "You're rushing a little bit, you're flying open."
From that point on, the left-hander held the Marlins scoreless, retiring seven of the final eight batters he faced in Washington's 3-1 loss to Miami.
"After that, I kind of settled in, tried to stay back and tried to keep my shoulders in, and I felt like I was more on top of the ball instead of just flying open," Gonzalez said. "Sometimes if I can't see what I'm doing wrong, I'll be more than happy to listen to one of my position players or a coach."
At the end of his outing, Gonzalez had allowed just the three first-inning runs on seven hits in five innings, throwing 81 pitches and striking out six.
Gonzalez's pitching mechanics were to blame for his slow start. In the first inning, he allowed four of the first six batters to reach base. Gaby Sanchez and Austin Kearns drove in runs to give the Marlins an early 3-0 lead in a 28-pitch first inning for Gonzalez.
"First couple of innings, I thought Gio was overthrowing," manager Davey Johnson said. "I think he felt crisper and was overthrowing a little bit."
The adjustment on the mound was easy to make Tuesday, but Gonzalez is still struggling with his transition from the American League to the National League. The South Florida native went 0-for-2, including a failed bunt attempt that ended in a strikeout in the third inning.
"I'm trying to make the adjustment of trying to be a hitter and a pitcher at the same time," Gonzalez said. "Little by little, I feel like I'm making great and positive steps, and making contact with the ball. I'm not saying I'm going to be the best hitter in the world, but at least I'm going to make adjustments to get the job done."
Before coming to the Nationals in the offseason, Gonzalez was hitless in seven Major League at-bats in his time with the Oakland Athletics.
The Nationals' No. 2 starter has just one more Spring Training start to make adjustments on the mound and at the plate before he starts his first regular-season game for Washington on April 7 against the Cubs.
"I feel like I'm getting there," Gonzalez said. "I feel like I'm 85, maybe 90 percent there. I've got one more start out here and we'll see where it goes. Hopefully I can turn it around, and when the season starts, I'll be at 100 percent."
Gonzalez will try to carry the momentum he gained from Tuesday's adjustment into his final start of the spring.
"I think I can carry on from the last couple of innings onto the next start, staying back, staying tall and trying to attack the strike zone," he said. "The last couple of innings, I started using my offspeed pitches and throwing ahead in counts, so that's a positive thing."
Anthony Chiang is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.