PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Most pitchers throw fastballs almost exclusively in their first outing of spring in an attempt to build up arm strength and work on their location.
Gio Gonzalez went a different route.
Gonzalez leaned heavily on his curveball in his first inning of work, throwing at least six hammers, by my count, in a 23-pitch frame.
The left-hander didn’t have good fastball location, walking Brandon Hicks to put the first two batters on following a Zach Walters error, but man, his curve is still nasty.
Gonzalez buckled David Wright’s knees with a curve before Wright flied out deep to left, and then Gonzalez got Ike Davis flailing at a sharp breaking ball for a swinging third strike.
Despite errors by Walters and Steve Lombardozzi, Gonzalez pitched a scoreless first, stranding two runners in scoring position.
He sat at 93 mph on the stadium gun, and while the scoreboard showed him at 97 mph once, that was likely a misread.
The Nationals’ two slugging corner infielders in the lineup today - Chris Marrero and Matt Skole - both smoked the ball in the second inning. Marrero laced a leadoff single to left, and after a Carlos Rivero double-play ball, Skole scalded a ball into the gap in right-center that went for a double.
We’re still scoreless going to the bottom of the second.
Update: That fastball command was much improved in Gonzalez’s second inning of work.
Gonzalez got Jamie Hoffman swinging at a heater to begin the frame, then after an impressive diving grab down the right-field line by Corey Brown, he got John Buck looking at a fastball to end the inning.
That’s now 34 pitches thrown by Gonzalez through two innings, 20 for strikes.
Ross Ohlendorf is warming in the bullpen. We’ll see if Davey Johnson lets Gonzalez go one more inning or takes him out on a high note.
Update II: Gonzalez is getting in his running on the warning track. He’s done.
The lefty’s final line: 2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 34 pitches, 20 strikes.
The Nats plated three runs in the third inning, with Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore and Rivero all delivering RBIs. It’s 3-0 Nats.