LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - On Gio Gonzalez’s first official pitch of spring training, the radar gun on the scoreboard at Champion Stadium read 94 mph. On his final pitch of his first inning of work, the gun flashed 95 mph.
Gonzalez doesn’t buy those figures.
“I think these guns were juiced a little bit,” Gonzalez laughed. “I don’t know if it was really 95.”
Not everyone agreed. Asked if he felt the radar readings might have been accurate, catcher Wilson Ramos nodded his head.
“Oh, yeah,” he said.
Regardless of what the speed gun had to say, the results said plenty for Gonzalez today. He allowed just one hit and a walk with two strikeouts in three scoreless frames in his spring training debut this afternoon, setting a tone for what could be to come down the road.
“My adrenaline was kicking, I felt good, my arm felt live,” Gonzalez said. “There’s definitely stuff that I still want to work on. Still want to get some breaking balls for strikes, and changeups.”
Gonzalez tossed credit at his defense and Ramos for their work during the hurler’s three innings, but when a lefty is spotting his fastball in the low to mid-90s and making hitters flail at sharp breaking pitches, it’s hard to look anywhere but at the guy standing atop the mound.
“I thought Gio was great,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He didn’t look rusty at all to me. He threw the ball good, threw some great curveballs. It was fun seeing him. He was special.”
The 26-year-old admitted that even though it was just a spring training outing, he was amped up to make his first start in a Nationals uniform. Pitching coach Steve McCatty tried to help calm Gonzalez down in the ‘pen before the game, and after putting runners on first and second in his first inning of work, Gonzalez faced the minimum over his final 2 1/3 innings.
Gonzalez said he got into a good rhythm with Ramos behind the plate calling the pitches. It will be important for the lefty starter to continue to develop that relationship over the final month of spring training.
“Just talking to him for two seconds, that guy knew what he was doing,” Ramos said. “He was calling a great game. He knew the hitters up and down. I might have shook him off once or twice, but other than that, it felt like we were on the same page for everything.”
The fun-loving, constantly humble Gonzalez will almost certainly be either the Nats’ opening day starter or the No. 2 arm in their rotation, but in his mind, he’s in camp competing for a spot in Johnson’s starting five.
“There’s plenty of live arms here,” Gonzalez said, “and I just want to keep up with them.”
He sure did that today.
Dan Kolko was named MASNsports.com’s Nationals beat writer after spending the last four years covering the Baltimore Ravens for MASN and also serving as the Web site’s deputy managing editor. A University of Delaware graduate originally from Silver Spring, Md., Dan grew up a die-hard baseball fan and is thrilled for the opportunity to cover the Nationals. Before joining MASN, Dan worked in production at Comcast SportsNet in Bethesda, Md., and also interned at the “George Michael Sports Machine” in Washington, D.C.
Follow Dan Kolko on Twitter: @DanKolko