WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - There are any number of ways to evaluate Gio González’s performance so far this spring, and all of them are positive.
Start with an 0.75 ERA in four outings. Then consider he has allowed only eight batters to reach base in 12 innings of work. Opponents are hitting a scant .135 against him. And he has issued only three walks.
All of that is great, especially for a left-hander was a model of inconsistency last season, often maddeningly so.
Here, though, is perhaps the best sign of them all: González has thrown a total of only 143 pitches in his 12 Grapefruit League innings, an average of 11.9 per frame. Contrast that to his average rate from last season - 17.6 pitches per inning - and it’s easy to see why the Nationals are so pleased with everything so far this spring.
“That’s Gio’s key,” manager Dusty Baker said after yesterday’s game. “When he’s efficient, he keeps his pitch count down. He wasn’t trying to strike them out.”
González was at his very best yesterday against the Mets. He did not allow a hit over five innings, issuing just one walk and quickly erasing that by inducing a double-play grounder. And he did all this on a mere 49 pitches.
“It was just one of those days you just keep going and keep attacking,” González said.
March success is nothing new for González, who posted an ERA no worse than 2.84 in each of the last four springs. So he hasn’t always been able to carry that successful formula into the regular season.
But if González can at least duplicate the approach he has featured this month once the season begins, the Nationals will be plenty happy.
González was one of five Nationals pitchers who held the Mets to one hit during yesterday’s 3-1 victory. Vance Worley retired the side in the sixth, Jacob Turner surrendered the lone run during the seventh, but then Rafael Martin and Koda Glover combined to retire the side in the eighth and ninth.
For Glover, this was a converted save opportunity. A two-run lead in front of 6,213 fans at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on March 16 doesn’t compare to a two-run lead in front of 40,000 fans at Nationals Park during the season, but it did give club officials and coaches another opportunity to see how the 23-year-old would respond to a save situation.
Glover has yet to allow a run in six innings this spring, putting only two men on base while striking out 10.
“He’s locating,” Baker said. “That’s the secret. If you can locate that velocity, you’re ahead of the game. He wants to make this club.”