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But as much as they’d heard about Gonzalez, they were still ill-prepared for the boisterous nature of a man who readily acknowledges he will talk to anyone. Any. One.

“Finally, I just said, ‘Do you go home and ice your vocal chords at night or what?’” Zimmermann playfully asked. “‘God, you talk so much. Just tone it down a hair.’”

“A lot of my friends back home are like him,” Strasburg said with a shrug. “He just fits right in. I’ll chime in every now and then.

“He goes about it a little differently than I do. It’s fun watching him pitch, and between games we’re just joking around. But I could never go out there and pitch the way he does, and I don’t think he could go out there and pitch the way I do. It’s just different. We go about it in a different way.”

When the Nationals traded for Gonzalez in December, his personality and how he’d get along with Strasburg wasn’t their main concern, but it was a consideration.

Joining a rotation in which there was an unquestioned No. 1 already in place, things could easily have gone wrong.

“You’re talking about a 26-year-old All-Star coming in and everyone saying, ‘You’re the second starter,’ ” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “Maybe a different guy would have said, ‘Uh, second to who?’ But he has enough self-confidence and was comfortable enough to say ‘OK, I get it.’ “

Gonzalez often defers credit to his teammates, and he made a point in spring training to let Zimmermann and Strasburg know he felt they “earned every stripe to be here.”

“I was just grateful to be a part of the rotation,” he said. “It was an honor in itself, in a way.”

Rubbing off on one another

Whether it was part of the plan, both acknowledge they might be rubbing off on one another. Asked what he’s taken from their relationship to this point, Gonzalez quipped, “I’m the lazy one.”

“Stras is the one who’s always in the weight room, doing something to get stronger and better,” he said. “He grabs me and tells me, ‘Let’s go out and run.’ Most people would just say ‘Well, take care of yourself and do that.’ “

And teammates notice that Strasburg, who Bryce Harper called “hilarious,” seems more willing this year to let down his guard and enjoy himself.

“He was a little quieter before,” Zimmermann said. “Now Gio is here and Stras is throwing punches back and throwing jokes up there. It’s good to see.”

Strasburg and Zimmermann live in the same apartment building, so the two, along with Strasburg’s wife and Zimmermann’s fiancee, often spend time together off the field. This year they’ve been texting Gonzalez to get him to join and often discuss how to spend more time together.

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