Nationals hoping to line Gio Gonzalez's schedule up with WBC plans, not intensifying starting pitching search due to MLB investigation

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VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals’ plans for preparing their pitchers this spring will have one added wrinkle when it comes to left-hander Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez will leave camp in early March to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic and the Nationals are still working to figure out how to line up his schedule to best prepare him for the tournament as well as the season.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he’s still waiting to hear from Team USA manager Joe Torre or pitching coach Greg Maddux for an exact schedule on how they plan to use Gonzalez in the tournament. The early word is that they will pitch him on March 10, giving the Nationals hope that they will be able to get him three appearances before he departs for Arizona.

“If it’s going be on the 10th, he’ll get a two-inning start on the first day of the spring and, with regular rest, he’ll probably go three the next time out on regular rest,” Johnson said Wednesday. 

The Nationals hope that Gonzalez will be able to stay with them until March 5, a few days past the March 3 date players are expected to report by, in order to get that third appearance. Pitching coach Steve McCatty, who will naturally worry about Gonzalez when he is away at the tournament, was unsure what type of schedule the Nationals could workout until they get the final word from Team USA. 

Gonzalez will be held to a strict pitch count during the tournament, as will all of the pitchers, and some those restrictions are as follows:

A pitcher must:

  • Not pitch until a minimum of four days have passed since he last pitched, if he threw 50 or more pitches when he last pitched.
  • Not pitch until a minimum of one day has passed since he last pitched, if he threw 30 or more pitches when he last pitched.
  • Not pitch until a minimum of one day has passed since any second consecutive day on which the pitcher pitched.
  • Throw no more than
    • 65 pitches per game in the First Round of the Tournament.
    • 80 pitches per game in the Second Round of the Tournament.
    • 95 pitches per game in the Championship Round of the Tournament, unless the pitcher needs more to complete a batter’s plate appearance.

As for if Gonzalez will be all right being away from the team for so long, Johnson did not appear concerned.

“I’m not worried about it,” he said. “He’s in great shape. He looks good.”

Johnson also offered his own support for Gonzalez as he remains under investigation by Major League Baseball for being linked to the Biogenesis clinic in Miami thought to be distributing performance-enhancing drugs.

“Knowing Gio I figured there wasn’t much to it,” Johnson said of the initial report involving Gonzalez. “I’ve gotten to know him real well and I know he’s very conscious of taking care of himself. I know all pitchers are looking for any kind of vitamins or whatever that can help you be healthier but he takes care of himself very well, and I’m sure that he wouldn’t do anything that he knew was breaking the rules.”

The Nationals, as an organization, have largely refrained from commenting on the situation as the investigation is ongoing. Gonzalez has been firm in his denial of any involvement with performance-enhancing drugs or the Biogenesis clinic and expects MLB’s investigation to clear him.

Wednesday, general manager Mike Rizzo said he “expects to (see Gonzalez’s) name in the lineup every fifth day.”

Rizzo also said the report and MLB’s subsequent investigation, which could result in a 50-game suspension for Gonzalez if he is found to have taken performance-enhancing drugs, did not affect the team’s search for more starting pitching depth.

“It did not intensify anything for us,” Rizzo said. “We’re always looking. We always like depth. But it did not intensify with that.”

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About the Author
Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at acomak@washingtontimes.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.

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