VIERA, Fla. — Gio Gonzalez arrived at the Washington Nationals’ spring training complex on Tuesday morning as his usual affable self.
He bounced around the clubhouse passing out copies of Athletes Quarterly magazine with his face on the cover, making him an easy target for teammates more than happy to leave the glamour shots from inside the publication strewn about.
He signed autographs for a group of fans and played catch with bullpen coach Nilson Robledo. He smiled and laughed and hugged anyone in sight.
Then he issued another firm denial of any use of performance-enhancing drugs or involvement with the Biogenesis clinic thought to be distributing banned substances.
Gonzalez, whose name surfaced in a report by the Miami New Times, said he has cooperated with Major League Baseball’s investigation into the matter and felt “very confident” that he will be cleared when the investigation is complete.
“At the end of the day, I’ve never taken performance-enhancing drugs and I never will,” Gonzalez said during a 15-minute session with the media in the Nationals’ dugout. “I’m actually pretty excited about this year.”
Looking thinner than the 200-pounds he was listed at on the Nationals’ 2012 roster, Gonzalez said he was “shocked” and “stunned” when he heard his name was found in Biogenesis records, along with those of Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Nelson Cruz and Yasmani Grandal. The names of Ryan Braun, Francisco Cervelli and Jhonny Peralta have since been reported as being in owner Anthony Bosch’s notes as well.
Gonzalez maintained that he has never had any connection to Bosch or the clinic, as he said in his initial statement denying his involvement. He had no idea how his name came to be listed or why it was found in the records. The only link, he said, was that his father had been a patient of Bosch’s in an effort to lose weight — a fact he said he did not know until the report came out.
“There’s no connections other than the fact that my father already admitted he was a patient there, a legitimate patient,” Gonzalez said. “After that, you know how my father is. All of South Florida, all of baseball knows that my father is the most proud father in baseball. He says ‘Hi,’ tells everyone about his son.
“That’s the best I can say. Other than that, I have no clue why my name was on that list or in that notebook.”
Major League Baseball did not give Gonzalez a timetable for when it may wrap up its investigation and until then the possibility for Gonzalez to face a 50-game suspension still exists. Gonzalez’s name appeared five times in Bosch’s records including once on the same page as something called “pink cream,” which is believed to be a synthetic testosterone. Gonzalez said he had no knowledge of what that product was and had never used it.
“No,” he said. “Not at all.”
He was adamant about not allowing the issue to become a distraction for him or his teammates, who received him warmly on Tuesday. He stressed that spring training is “about the organization, about the team, together.” Gonzalez will leave to participate in the World Baseball Classic during the first weekend in March, accepting an earlier invitation this past weekend and viewing it as a positive sign Team USA had received him given the existing turmoil.
“If you get a call from [USA manager] Joe Torre you know that something’s going good and you feel confident that he believes in you,” Gonzalez said. “Everyone has their doubts, everyone has their beliefs, but at the end of the day, I’m still playing. I’m still staying positive.”
While the questions about his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic were limited to the first six minutes of his interview, as Gonzalez’s session was wrapping up he was asked if he was going into the season feeling as if he had something to prove. At that suggestion, Gonzalez was frank.
“I think my resume speaks for itself,” he said. “I’ve been the same guy every year.
“It’s going to motivate me to work even harder, but do I have to prove anything to anyone? Absolutely not. If I want to prove something to myself and try to get better, I would definitely do that.”
NOTES: Right-hander Stephen Strasburg threw 37 pitches in his first bullpen session of spring training, watched by pitching coach Steve McCatty. … Reliever Henry Rodriguez, who had a bone spur and a loose body removed from his right elbow last August, said he is still in the process of rehabbing the injury. … The Nationals released a statement that they are continuing to explore their options for future spring training sites. … Fox has picked up nine Nationals games in the 2013 season for either regional or national broadcast.