- Associated Press - Monday, March 9, 2015

VIERA, Fla. — Gio Gonzalez needed only 19 pitches to get through his two innings Monday, so the Washington Nationals lefty went to the bullpen and threw 15 more.

Gonzalez got off to a sharp start this spring in the Nationals’ 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves. He gave up one hit, walked none and struck out one.

“I wasn’t thinking about pitch count or anything like that,” he said. “I was just going out there to try to attack the strike zone.”

Almost an afterthought in a rotation that includes Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg, Gonzalez won 21 games in 2012, his first season in Washington.

Gonzalez has won a combined 21 games in the past two seasons. He went 10-10 with a 3.57 ERA last year for the Nationals League East champions and spent time on the disabled list with inflammation in his left shoulder.

Gonzalez has said all spring that he’s just happy to be healthy this season, and it certainly showed in his first spring training start.

“My arm felt fantastic, strong,” Gonzalez said. “My shoulder felt great.”
Tanner Roark, who replaced Gonzalez, gave up a two-run home run to Eric Young Jr. in the third.

A day after nine Braves pitchers combined for a 10-inning no-hitter against Houston, Atlanta lefty Wandy Rodriguez retired his first eight batters before Tony Gwynn Jr. singled with two outs in the third.

Rodriguez pitched three scoreless innings.

Steven Lerud hit a two-out, ground-rule double in the bottom of the ninth to score Washington’s run. Wilmer Difo struck out against Jacob Brigham with runners at second and third to end the game.

Daniel Castro had three hits for the Braves. Gwynn Jr. and Anthony Rendon each had two hits for Washington.

Rodriguez gave up two hits and struck out two.

“I saw him spin the breaking ball pretty darn good,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “The first at-bat against Rendon … he don’t look bad against anybody, and he punched him out on a couple of pretty good, solid breaking balls.”

Although Nationals manager Matt Williams said Michael Taylor would get more opportunities to play now that center fielder Denard Span is recovering from surgery on a chest muscle, it could also open up playing time for Gwynn, who is 3-for-5 in four spring games for Washington.

Williams said it would be four to six weeks before Span could resume baseball activities. Nate McLouth is getting at-bats in minor league games, but is still on a throwing program as he rehabs from offseason shoulder surgery.

“The one thing about this organization I’ve seen from the other side is that they’ve always been pretty good about having depth for these types of situations,” Gwynn said. “I’m just hoping to be able to fill in that role for the meantime.”


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