Maldonado reassigned, Gonzalez reacts to final spring start

JUPITER, Fla. - The Nationals made one roster move after today’s game, reassigning catcher Carlos Maldonado to minor league camp.

Maldonado, who really impressed manager Davey Johnson this spring, will back up Jhonatan Solano at Triple-A Syracuse.

“I hate to lose him,” Johnson said. “He’s been like my favorite chair.”

The Nats now officially have 33 players left in major league camp.

Gio Gonzalez didn’t just throw five very impressive innings today in his final outing before the start of the regular season, he also delivered his first base hit since high school.

The Nationals’ lefty smacked a Jaime Garcia fastball up the middle in his lone at-bat of the day, but then immediately showed his rust when it comes to post-base hit protocol, coming to a dead stop on first base instead of making the turn toward second and then retreating.

“(Cardinals right fielder Carlos) Beltran told me, he goes, ‘At least round the base. Don’t stop,’ ” Gonzalez said. “I was laughing, I was like, ‘I ain’t getting off this bag. It’s my first hit.’ “

The hit was nice, but Gonzalez’s effort on the mound was better. The lefty allowed just one run on three hits with one walk and seven strikeouts today, throwing 81 pitches in five innings of work.

In Gonzalez’s last start, he realized (with an assist to third baseman Mark DeRosa and pitching coach Steve McCatty) that he was flying open on his pitches, instead of staying square to the hitters. Today, Gonzalez focused more on making sure he wasn’t rushing to the plate and instead was properly finishing his delivery.

“What I was trying to do was just slow down the game a little bit,” Gonzalez said. “Trying to stay back on my pitches. My job today was definitely trying to attack the strike zone early, let them put it in play. Again, this was an aggressive-hitting team, so my job was to keep it in the strike zone and keep it down.”

Gonzalez estimated that he’s at about 95 percent of where he’d like to be during the season, but has been pleased with the work he’s put in during his last couple spring outings. After hitting a dead-arm phases during the middle of spring, Gonzalez has allowed four earned runs with 13 strikeouts and two walks in his last two starts, spanning 10 innings.

“It was a step to the right direction with my last two starts,” Gonzalez said. “And especially after what the Cardinals did to me (two starts ago), it was a good learning curve for me that finally I tuned it up a little bit and worked on the things I needed to work on.”

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