- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2015

VIERA, FLA. — Sometimes you just need to clear your head. That wasn’t necessarily an offseason goal for Gio Gonzalez, but that’s what happened.

On Thursday, Gonzalez was asked if he did anything differently this winter than in years past. “I definitely was just more relaxed,” he replied. The reason? Gonzalez said he spent a lot of time this winter working with the baseball team at Hialeah High School, where he spent the first three years of his own high-school career.

Gonzalez said he threw bullpen sessions there to a high school catcher. He worked with the pitchers, outfielders and even a first baseman. “Hitting I didn’t touch too much,” he said with a grin. But besides that, he did a little bit of everything.

“I didn’t want to leave the place,” Gonzalez said. “I was excited to work with the kids, kind of speak to them. It was just one of those things, I never had an opportunity to have a major league baseball player come down and talk to me when I was a kid, so I tried to give as much back when I was there. It also took a lot off my mind. It helped me just relax.”

Gonzalez has a history of giving back in his hometown. Last winter, for example, he bought brand new cleats for every member of a local traveling team. This year, he found that giving back to others also helped improve his own mindset. In a way, he said, being at the high school helped him rekindle his love of baseball.

“[I] just got to spend that enjoyment that I lost, back then, being a kid again,” he said. “That opened my eyes, going back to where I came from in Hialeah. I just put all that stress and all that B.S. behind me, and I just want to enjoy it this year.”

SEE ALSO: Doug Fister focused on the season, not his future with Nationals

Breakfast links

— From Friday’s paper, a look at the expectations the Nationals face this year, and whether they’re buying into the hype.

Doug Fister was noncommittal when asked if he wants to stay in Washington beyond this year.

Teammates explain their reactions to the Max Scherzer signing.

Worth watching

The first official workout for pitchers and catchers isn’t until Saturday, so these first few days are very informal. Some players roll through the clubhouse at 8 a.m., when we’re allowed to be there. Others come in later, after we’ve left. Max Scherzer, for example, wasn’t there when we were so we were unable to talk to him. Hopefully he’ll be around today. I also expect Stephen Strasburg to address reporters at some point this morning, so keep an eye out for a story with his thoughts later this afternoon.

Good luck charms?

As noted on Twitter, Jose Lobaton still has his Maneki-neko. You may remember that he bought the figurine (a golden cat whose arm swings like a pendulum) during the National League Division Series in San Francisco. He kept it in the dugout as a supposed good luck charm. The Nationals went 1-1 with it there. Read into that as much as you want. (Just kidding, please don’t.)

Also, not sure if this is for good luck or some other reason, but Danny Espinosa is rocking an incredible Fu Manchu mustache. You can see it here. Yes, it is even more impressive in person. Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post said he looks like Yosemite Sam. A player joked that he looks like a Civil War general. Either way: it’s awesome. Espinosa’s Fu Manchu also has a Twitter account and included the hashtag “#FUTangClan” in a tweet directed at me. That was also awesome.

Quote of the day

Doug Fister met with reporters Thursday and covered a variety of important topics, including his uncertain future in Washington, his relationship with Max Scherzer, and much more.

What follows is a transcript of the closing moments of that interview, in which we asked him about his motorhome. His last line is the (very) early leader for quote of the year.

Reporter: “Did you drive your motorhome out here?”

Fister: “I did drive a motorhome from home. I’ve got my wife and my animals. It makes things a lot easier to transition into season.”

Reporter: “How many days did [the trip] take?”

Fister: “We split it up into four days.”

Reporter: “I thought you’d drive a car.”

Fister: “No, we shipped the car and drove the motorhome.”

Reporter: “What animals?”

Fister: “I have two Great Danes and two cats.”

Reporter: “Do they get along?”

Fister: “Oh yeah. Everybody gets along well. You kind of have to in a motorhome.”

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