In the latest example of spring training results not carrying over into the regular season, Gio Gonzalez made his belated season debut in convincing fashion, tossing six scoreless innings in the Nationals' win over the Braves on Tuesday night.
Combine that with Joe Ross' strong start on Monday, and the outlook for the Nationals' starting rotation all of a sudden looks a lot better. Like Ross, Gio helped ease some minor concerns for a rotation that entered this season with questions beyond Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
For Gio, it was an impressive season debut after 16 days in between outings. Gonzalez had last pitched on March 27 in the Grapefruit League with his first turn in the rotation skipped due to off-days and a rainout. That's a lengthy break, but the lefty did not appear to be affected by the layoff.
"I felt locked in, I felt like I didn't miss a beat," Gonzalez said.
Gio finished with four strikeouts and one walk. He allowed three hits, all of them singles.
Gonzalez said he threw four bullpen sessions in between starts and entered Tuesday hoping to keep things simple.
"I slowed my mechanics down, slowed the game down and was trying to pick up my target as much as possible. [Catcher Jose Lobaton] gave me a great zone, right before every sign and this and that. As far as that we did a great job putting it together. Defense was great."
Back to slowing the game down. Gio said it was a big point of emphasis for him this offseason.
"It's been a confidence-booster more and more every time I got out and grab the ball," he said. "[Pitching coach Mike Maddux] has been great. He's been helping me out slow my mechanics down and helping me pick up my target a little bit longer... keep my eyes on the target as much as possible. Pick it up early, and Mike had a great saying: You can hit your target when you keep your eyes on it better than hitting a moving target."
Gonzalez also added a single on offense to his all-around successful season debut, one that ended in a Nationals victory. The pitcher planned to go home afterwards and enjoy the win with his family, including his newborn son.
"I gotta go out there and give him a big kiss right now. It's always something nice to go home with, talk a little bit to my son and see if he listens," Gonzalez said.