Well, the title to this blog might be a bit misleading. After spending some time with the newest National this afternoon one thing is certainly clear: Gonzalez is a talker. He was excited today — as well he should be — and that excitement was evident not in just how much he said but what he said.
The Nationals already had plenty of players for fans to gravitate to, players who embrace what the Nationals are trying to build and are thrilled to be a part of building up a winning tradition, but Gonzalez made it pretty clear in his introductory press conference that he gets it, too.
Gonzalez has spent the past few days touring D.C. with his mother, Yolanda, father, Max, as well as two of his cousins and his brother, acquainting himself with a city he expects to be in for a while.
But he took some time today to answer a range of questions from the media. Here are a few excerpts that didn’t make it into the article linked above (and please remember some of it, like his joke about the umpires, was (obviously) said tongue-in-cheek):
On why he felt comfortable signing a long-term extension without ever having thrown a pitch in Washington:
As soon as they made this opportunity happen, I figured, you know what, this is a great organization to be a part of. The names, the young talent, the core that they have – I figured I was going from Oakland to the Nationals, it felt like it was the same thing, a young family. As soon as they said, ‘We’re interested, we want you,’ when they made the trade happen, I was more than happy to smile. My family, we sat down and analyzed the whole thing. It came down to, we’re happy, this is where we want to be. I get to come back home to see my family and play against the Marlins at home. But this is the most important here, to be a part of a new organization and to represent the Washington Nationals.
As soon as we got this contract out of the way I was at ease. I took a deep breath, enjoyed it with my family. Now it’s time to get back to work and come ready for spring training. I definitely took a minute to embrace this. But I know the way I am I can’t sleep unless I continue to strive and get better and better. I know (Nationals GM Mike Rizzo) took a shot with me and I don’t want to let him down. When that happens I compete even harder, I train harder. I’m a happy-go-lucky guy, but when it comes down to it I want to make sure that you got exactly what you wanted.
On if he feels any added pressure because of the haul Rizzo and the Nationals gave up to acquire him from Oakland:
I don’t look at it as a pressure situation. I look at it as a challenge situation. In life, everyone has to go through a challenge. I love the fact that the Nationals, everyone is out there supporting. How I am, and the person that I will always be, I have to go out there and compete. I always have to strive to get better. I’m never content in any situation that I’m in. When the opportunity, I’m hoping to run with it and try to help win, and try to see you guys in October, talking about a playoff run and a World Series championship.
The offense and the defense that we have, we’re going to be around for quite a while. Hopefully, we can get this championship out of the way and try to get a couple more while I’m still here.
I think it’s an honor that the Nationals did that. The players they gave up were outstanding ballplayers. I think they’re going to do a great job in Oakland. I think that this was, in my opinion, a fair trade where, when all was said and done, Oakland was happy with their trade and I’m assuming the Nationals are happy with their trade. But I’m definitely the type of guy I don’t want to let you down. I will do anything and everything I can to make sure you got exactly what you wanted. And I love the pressure situations. I love the ‘Bring it on,’ where it’s all said and done you need this game won I’m there. Give me the baseball. I’ll be in the bullpen if I have to. I love the whole situation where it’s ‘Let’s go out there and compete.’ And this is what the Nationals brought to the table. ‘We made this trade for you to go out there and compete for us,’ and I felt like was a privilege and an honor to do that.
On if he feels like he can be a veteran presence in the Nationals’ rotation given his modest major league experience:
I like to be the guy that listens up mostly. My door is always open for whoever wants to ask any questions or young guys need a guideline or something like that. I had to go through some rough patches myself when I was coming up in the minor leagues and the big leagues. It’s maturing, obviously, growing up. And I had a great coach-ballplayer, I like to say, in Dallas Braden, who took me under his wing and led me to the right direction. He helped me to become the pitcher I am today and I give all the credit in the world to people like that. Again, I’m more than happy to pass the torch and keep helping out if I could. But I like to listen. I’m new in this organization and I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. So I like to stay back, watch and then within time hopefully I can break in and help out as much as I can as a role model.
On his pitching style:
I like to keep the ball down. You have to work around their power and try to find their weakness, and work around it immediately. I’ve had some great defenses in Oakland where these guys helped me a lot, got me out of some really sticky situations. I had great catchers, both of them. I’m hoping the catchers we have and the defense we have, they’re going to get me out of a lot of tough situations.
I really don’t know how (the field) plays out here in Washington. I’ve heard it plays fair for both pitchers and hitters. But in Oakland it was like the same thing. Day games if you popped up it was a home run. And night games you had to really get a hold of it to hit it out. I’ve seen some hard home runs out there. But either way you got to hit the ball. Same thing as a pitcher, you got to keep the ball down and away from their bats. It was fun pitching there, but it’s going to be exciting to pitch here.
On how to cure his penchant for walks, in which he led the American League last year and if that’s the final hurdle for him:
I have to attack the strike zone. That’s the main key right there. Hopefully with time, I’ll get in good with the umpires. I’ll take them out to dinner or something like that. I’m definitely going to try to work on that. I’m pretty sure working with (pitching coach Steve McCatty), he’s going to help me out. I’m really excited. This is going to be a new season, a new era.
If I can get past the walks situation, I think it balances out where I can go out there and finally get some more innings, probably compete a little harder. There’s a lot of stuff I need to polish and I need to dust off. I’m not saying I’m going to be perfect, but I will strive to be.
On throwing to catcher Wilson Ramos:
I heard he was fantastic. I heard you could close your eyes, he’ll call the game and you could feel comfortable. That’s definitely the kind of catcher I love to have. I always quote off Mark Buehrle – ‘If I give up a home run, it’s the catcher’s fault.’ That’s the goal I want to go with. We’re both going to do our homework. We’re both going to study the team. No pressure on him, but ‘It’s on you, buddy.’
On switching leagues and the challenges that lie ahead:
I’m definitely not going to miss the DH.
I think swinging the bat is going to be the hardest adjustment. From my highlights of my swinging, it’s not the prettiest. I definitely want to say I will try to make adjustment, I will try to do my best to try to bunt it down and try to slow it down running to first base and try not to pull anything.
This is the exciting part, where I get to watch … (Stephen) Strasburg and Jordan (Zimmermann) go out there and pitch. We’re going to go out there and I get to study off these guys every night. I get to see what left-handed pitching has done and also right-handed, what they do in certain counts. That’s something I did in Oakland, where I learned, I studied off our pitching. I have to take it upon myself and go out there and do the same thing. Knowing that there’s going to be a new situation for me, I think it’s going to be a fun challenge. … Learning to pitch to certain hitters I’ve never faced, I think it’s both ways – I’ve never seen them and they’ve never seen me. I think it works in our favor as a pitcher. I think you get more of an advantage because they have to look up more video.
On what it will be like to pitch several times a year in his hometown in Miami:
I’m extremely excited. I’ve had plenty of friends and family back home already telling me that it’s not going to look the Miami Marlins anymore. It’s going to look like the Washington Nationals on the road. If I can sell out that stadium where everyone is wearing Nationals clothes, it’s going to be awesome. I remember the Cubs doing that when I was a kid. It was all Cubs fans, and it was like me and my dad wearing Marlins gear. I hope we have the same impact when I arrive down there.
On his trip to D.C. — which is his first one — and included a cameo on the jumbotron at the Capitals game Tuesday night:
Last night I visited the Lincoln Memorial. When you’ve never been here, you appreciate everything that’s going on. It was so exciting to see all these things that you’ve never seen. When we got here, we enjoyed it. We were running up the steps (at the Lincoln Memorial), screaming, ‘Rocky!’ Obviously the wrong city, but we were screaming. We also saw where Forrest Gump was (filmed). We quoted a lot of movies – Independence Day. We did everything. We definitely had great memories here.
It’s one of those things, you don’t get a chance to do ever. We were talking about it with my Dad, and he was like, ‘We’ve got to go see everything right now.’ I was like ‘Dad, I’m going to be here for the next five years and beyond that. We’ll see plenty of it. Just enjoy your time.’