Mid-game adjustments help Gonzalez finish strong

JUPITER, Fla. - In his last start, both Gio Gonzalez and manager Davey Johnson felt that the lefty might have been working through a dead-arm period, which can happen toward the end of spring.

Today, Gonzalez might have actually had too much life in his arm early on.

Johnson said he thought Gonzalez was a bit too “frisky” in the first inning today, causing the 26-year-old to miss his spots and allow four baserunners and three runs. The big blow in the first inning was Austin Kearns’ two-out, two-run double.

“First couple innings, I thought Gio was overthrowing,” Johnson said. “I think he felt crisper and was overthrowing a little bit. And after the first couple innings, he started pitching and he looked real great to me. Everything was sharper, better location. But early on, he was really flying open. Throwing hard, but just overthrowing.”

Gonzalez agreed with that assessment, saying that both pitching coach Steve McCatty and third baseman Mark DeRosa told him he was flying open, causing his pitches to tail to the left.

“It came down to the third inning when (DeRosa) said, ‘Hey, you’re rushing a little bit, you’re flying open,’ and after that I settled in, stayed back, kept my shoulders in and just felt like I was more on top of the ball and wasn’t flying open,” Gonzalez said. “There’s a lot of positive things that came out of that first inning. I’m glad that I settled down and stopped the bleeding immediately.”

After throwing 28 pitches in the first inning, Gonzalez needed just 55 to get through his next four frames. He retired seven of the last eight hitters he faced, finished with six strikeouts and reached the five-inning mark for the first time in five spring starts.

“He settled in and started pitching, which was great,” Johnson said. “He got five innings in, around 80 pitches, which was a perfect next-to-last start in spring. So I feel good about that. It was a good outing.”

Gonzalez said he feels like he’s at 85-90 percent of where he wants to be by the time the regular season rolls around, and hopes a few innings his next time out will leave him ready for his April 7 outing against the Cubs.

“(I want to) carry on the last couple of innings on to the next start, staying tall and trying to attack the strike zone,” Gonzalez said. “At the end, the last couple innings, I started using my offspeed pitches and throwing ahead of counts so that’s a positive. If I can establish that, that can lead to more outs in less pitches.”

The one major negative for Gonzalez today came at the plate, as he failed to get a bunt down with runners at first and second and nobody out in the third inning. The lefty, who has just seven career regular season at-bats, thrice bunted a ball foul, resulting in a strikeout.

Diagnosing his own bunting faults, Gonzalez said he was attacking the ball too much.

“I don’t know why I was jumping out of the box instead of staying there waiting for the ball to get there and laying it down,” Gonzalez said. “But if you look at it, it was solid where the ball should have hit the bat. I felt like it just was missing by an inch. It’s a minor adjustment. It’s minor stuff that I can work on but it’s good to know that I got it out of the way today and not during the season.”

Gonzalez was about as displeased with his bunting failures as he was with the fact that he’ll face the Cardinals again his next time out. That will mark his third start against St. Louis in a span of five outings.

“It is (tough),” Gonzalez said. “Especially if they’re seeing you for the third time in less than a month. That’s pretty hard. It’s what it is. They have a knowledge, I have a knowledge. Hopefully it works together.”

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