WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Maybe it’s a good thing Gio Gonzalez is overshadowed by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in the rotation of the Washington Nationals.
A 21-game winner in 2012, his first year with the Nats, Gonzalez has watched his earned run average rise in each of the last four seasons.
Now, with the All-Star Game slated for his hometown of Miami in July, he has something to prove.
“It’s a little more personal this year,” says the veteran lefthander, an All-Star in both leagues. “There are a lot of reasons why I want to make the All-Star team but most of them I keep to myself and my family. I can tell you that this year means something to me.”
An innings eater who has worked at least 175 frames in all but one of his five Washington seasons, Gonzalez started the opener of the 2012 National League Division Series and finished third in the voting for the league’s Cy Young Award.
After starting his winter workouts earlier, as suggested by former Nationals pitcher Livan Hernandez, Gonzalez marched into the office of manager Dusty Baker when workouts began last month and announced his intention to recapture his All-Star form.
If that happens, and Scherzer and Strasburg also pitch like Cy Young contenders, the Nats could clinch the NL East title early.
“It’s a long season,” he says, “but I learn from experience. I do what my body tells me to do.”
The Nationals are counting on 200 or more innings from each of their Big Three – and pay for the privilege. Gonzalez is set to earn $12 million this season.
He joined the club during the 2011 winter meetings for a quartet of top prospects. He had been an American League All-Star for the Oakland A’s just five months earlier.
He may have gone 15-2 with a 3.00 ERA last year but Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez won’t complain the team renewed his contract for the relatively paltry sum of $535,000 . . .
After losing Martin Prado to a hamstring injury, the Miami Marlins are not happy the star infielder played in the World Baseball Classic . . .
The stacked United States team has never taken the tournament, which went to Japan twice and the Dominican Republic once . . .
The St. Louis Cardinals say first baseman Matt Carpenter is over his lower back injury . . .
The Cards and Pirates will stage the first “MLB Little League Classic” at Williamsport, PA, home of the Little League World Series, on August 20 . . .
At age 44, Manny Ramirez is playing with a Japanese team called the Kochi Fighting Dogs . . .
Apparently healed from the elbow surgery that shortened his 2016 campaign, Mets righthander Jacob deGrom has new life on his fastball and slider this spring . . .
Rockies righthander Chad Bettis is out indefinitely after a recurrence of testicular cancer . . .
Nobody north of Florida ever heard of the guy but Marlins reliever Clay Barraclough ranked third in the majors, trailing only Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, in strikeouts per nine innings last year (14) . . .
After being stuck behind Brian McCann in Atlanta, slugging catcher Evan Gattis faces the same situation in Houston – though he can also be used as a designated hitter for the American League club . . .
Incumbent Yadier Molina isn’t the first Cardinals receiver to win multiple Gold Gloves; manager Mike Matheny won a half-dozen while wearing the tools of ignorance during his career . . .
Will the Nationals annoint 42-year-old retread Joe Nathan as the right man to succeed closer Mark Melancon, now with San Francisco via free agency? . . .
With the signatures on the new Basic Agreement between labor and management barely dry, many star players object to the proposed new pitch clock, strike zone changes, and limits on mound visits . . .
Watch out for the revived Atlanta offense, which ranked sixth in the majors after the 2016 All-Star break after placing dead last before the game.