Manager Matt Williams said in his postgame news conference following a 5-2 loss to the Mets Saturday that Gio Gonzalez’s shoulder issue from earlier in the season is not the reason for the Nationals left-hander’s two rough outings in a row.
But if it is not a health reason for Gonzalez’s problems on the hill, what is it?
“I can’t put a finger on that because I don’t know,” Williams said. “There’s no difference in velocity. He’s running it in there at 94 mph. It doesn’t feel like that. He’s had a little tight shoulder earlier this year, but has continued to pitch and tells us that he feels good. So I don’t know. I don’t see that, though.”
Williams said Gonzalez has continued to get treatment on the sore shoulder. He believes it is just inconsistency right now.
“His release point is all over the place, but that’s somewhat typical of him sometimes,” Williams said. “And he tends to zone it in as he gets into the game. But the last two, that hasn’t been the case. It’s been falling behind and coming to the hitters and they’ve been whacking it. So, do a little better job of zoning in early, if that’s the case.”
But after the game, Gonzalez sounds like a player who is having trouble with his shoulder.
“It is just one of those things you’ve got to keep grinding through, just trying to find out what it is,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully, something positive comes out of it. Other than that, try to stay positive.
“Realistically, it is just arm was dropping a lot. I guess we will see.”
Gonzalez said it might be more of a question of strategy against a team like the New York Mets, who have seen him in 10 career starts. But this loss was only his second in eight decisions against the Mets.
“One thing as a starting pitcher, you are going to always try to mix it up,” Gonzalez said. “This is the third year going on against this team. They have seen you quite a few times. You always have to be on your toes and make the adjustment. They are definitely going to put some damage to it. They proved it today.”
Shortstop Ian Desmond believes Gonzalez can bounce back from these two losses and he will be able to regain the consistency that has led him to 35 wins as a Nationals starter.
“He kind of runs into trouble and then he makes adjustments,” Desmond said. “Same thing he did last time. He fought through it today and that is part of baseball. I don’t care what position you play. It is a long season. In August or September, no one is going to remember this start. Sometimes you just run into some scuffles here and there.”
Gonzalez admitted his pregame bullpen session did not feel completely there. He was having difficulty getting into a good rhythm before first pitch. That appears to be a warning flag that maybe the veteran might need some time to get the shoulder right health-wise.
“Just trying to stay loose most of the time,” Gonzalez said of his pregame throws, looking down-trodden during the postgame interview. “It was definitely tough. But other than that, you could see it. Arm slot wasn’t where I wanted it to be. Arm kept dropping. Fastball would come in harder and then sometimes drop a little bit in velocity. Hopefully I will figure it out.”
After postgame, Gonzalez left his locker talking to trainer Lee Kuntz.
This might be the best time to get Gonzalez and his shoulder better and shut him down with a disabled list stint. The Nationals have depth in the minors with not one, but two Taylors available.
Taylor Jordan has seen his velocity come back a bit.
But another Taylor, right-hander Taylor Hill, has been tearing up Triple-A Syracuse and is ready for a shot. The 6-foot-3, 233 lb., Hill has gone 5-1 with a 1.99 ERA in eight starts over 49 2/3 innings. He has 41 strikeouts with only seven walks. Right-handed hitters have managed only three earned runs off of Hill in 27 1/3 innings.