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Gonzalez: Award a way to thank Nationals GM Rizzo

Gonzalez: Award a way to thank Nationals GM Rizzo

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Gio Gonzalez got bounced around a lot early in his career before eventually winding up with a home in Washington.

Constantly involved in trades between playoff contenders, Gonzalez was grateful when Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo acquired him from Oakland and then signed him to a five-year, $42 million contract before last season.

He hopes some of that gratitude showed Thursday when he picked up the Warren Spahn Award as baseball's top left-handed pitcher.

``When he picked me up and traded for me, he didn't question anything I had - none of my abilities. He just said, `Let's get him a contract. Let's keep him here. We want him.' That to me meant all the world to me,'' Gonzalez said.

``It felt like I needed to prove something not to him, but to represent him very proudly. This is my way of saying, `Thank you' and proving to whoever doubted the situation or any of my abilities.''

Gonzalez finished the season with a 21-8 record, a 2.89 ERA and 207 strikeouts to win the award that is decided purely on statistics. It is named after Warren Spahn, the top-winning lefty in baseball history.

``There's already one best lefty in baseball, and that's Warren Spahn,'' ``I think to follow in those footsteps, it's an honor.''

Gonzalez hopes the award isn't the last time he's associated with Spahn. He broke into the majors with Oakland in 2008 and has improved his win total, ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio in each season so far.

``His career got better as he got older,'' Gonzalez said. ``He won all those trophies: a 17-time All-Star, 363 wins. And remember, he's also a war vet, also a Purple Heart. There's so much history about the man. I would love to walk in those shoes.

``It's hard to fill them up but I would love to walk right behind him.''

Gonzalez finished third in voting for the National League Cy Young Award, behind R.A. Dickey and fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw was the 2011 winner of the Cy Young and the Spahn Award.

David Price, the 2010 Spahn Award winner, was this year's AL Cy Young winner.

``I think that's the ultimate goal as a left-handed pitcher to reach. A Cy Young is beautiful but a Warren Spahn is just as nice,'' Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez was the Game 1 starter for the Nationals in the NL division series after Stephen Strasburg was shut down late in the season. Washington was eliminated in five games - squandering a two-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 5 - after a celebrated season that brought playoff baseball back to the nation's capital for the first time in decades.

``We had such great guys,'' Gonzalez said. ``Our rotation was unbelievable, our offense was incredible. Our defense, a couple of Gold Gloves. A couple of Silver Sluggers. I think our team numbers proved it. We had the Rookie of the Year. We had a bunch of guys that won so many awards.

``This, to me, was the icing on the cake.''

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Davey Martinez to ESPN: ‘I believe there will be baseball’

Davey Martinez to ESPN: ‘I believe there will be baseball’

Baseball may not yet be close to returning to action, but Nationals manager Davey Martinez hasn’t given up hope that the 2020 season will be salvaged after the start pf the campaign was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I do believe that we'll have a season, but at this particular moment, for me and for our players, our main concern is the well-being of families, friends, fans,” Martinez told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. “We need to get out of this healthy and ready to go.”

This is the seventh time MLB has had to cut into a season. The last time it happened was 1994-95, when a strike by the players forced the league to cancel ’94 World Series. Martinez was a member of the San Francisco Giants that season, denied a chance to make the playoffs after the season came to a halt with the Giants only three games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

But when asked if he had any past experiences helping him get through the pandemic that’s forced governors across the U.S. to issue stay-at-home orders, Martinez pointed to another traumatic event that shook both baseball and the country.

“For me, 9/11,” Martinez said. “I am from New York and I have family in New York. I understood what everybody was going through. But New York rebounded, and baseball came back and took everybody in. I was playing with Atlanta and we played the Mets in that first game [in New York after 9/11].

“We were winning that game, and all of a sudden [Mike] Piazza hits the home run -- and it was almost a sigh of relief for everybody. It really was. That moment, watching the ball go over the fence. ... I know we're all so competitive and we all want to win, but in that particular moment for me, it was like, ‘You know what, this is what the game's all about. Win or lose, this is what the game is all about.’ Watching and listening to the fans stand up and cheer like they did, it was phenomenal.”

While stuck at his home in Tennessee, Martinez has helped pass the time by driving around his property on a four-wheeler and reaching out to his players—two or three a day. He asks them about their families, trying to gauge what their mindsets are because “all of a sudden what you love to do this time of year is gone.”

“I believe there will be baseball,” Martinez said “I can't put a finger on when, but we're going to step back on that field and we're going to have a lot of fun. I tell the boys, think of it this way, we hold the trophy for a lot longer than anybody else.”

As the defending World Series champions, the Nationals have been able to at least take solace in the fact that a banner-raising ceremony and ring presentation await them when they return to D.C. Until then, all Martinez can do is bunker down and wait things out along with the rest of the world.

“I think about that moment when we come back and get those beautiful rings and put up that banner in the stadium,” Martinez said. “It's still going to be there no matter what when we get back. But under these circumstances, I can't think about anything else but the safety of the people and our love for this country.”

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Nationals leave spring training facility after it is shut down, converted to coronavirus test site

Nationals leave spring training facility after it is shut down, converted to coronavirus test site

The Washington Nationals’ spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Florida, has been shut down and converted into a coronavirus testing facility.

All 13 players and the accompanying team staff who were working at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches -- the shared spring training home of the Nationals and Houston Astros -- dispersed once Florida governor Ron DeSantis ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses.

“Our medical staff is still working on finding some off-site facilities for some players,” Mike Rizzo said Monday on a conference call. “The handful of players that are rehabbing from injuries from last season... it’s a very, very small list, and obviously the injuries were a long time ago. It’s not something that’s of essential importance, and obviously the safety and the health of all the staff and all the players is paramount. Again, we are in constant communication with all players about their health and their training.”

Turning the facility over for use by the national guard was among the provisions when it was constructed, then opened, in 2017.

“The majority of the 13 players that were in West Palm have places here,” Rizzo said. “So they’re just at their home. They’re isolating themselves and trying to find some way to continue their throwing programs and their workout programs at their own homes or facilities. We still do have several minor league players, that we deemed it was unsafe to go back to their home countries, here in West Palm Beach. We continue to take care of them and put them up at one of the local hotels, as we’ll continue to do until we start back up playing.”

Nationals Park is also closed. Players already in Washington who need rehabilitation treatment can go there, but no training is taking place.

Rizzo also reiterated that no one on the roster has shown symptoms of coronavirus. So, none have been tested.

Otherwise, the Nationals are waiting and maintaining like everyone else.

“As far as the training and preparing, all of our pitchers have been in contact with Paul Menhart, our pitching coach,” Rizzo said. “They are following their throwing programs and our hitters alike have been in constant contact with Kevin Long and Pat Roessler. They all have their plans in place. There are some kind of inventive ways that they’re keeping in shape and conditioning and staying as ready as they can to participate in baseball whenever that takes place.

“Many industries are in the same situation as we are. We’re doing the best we can, we have a lot of unknowns, we continue to rely on the CDC, the World Health Organization and MLB as our resources. We are certainly going to follow their protocols and their recommendations to the letter. And as the commissioner recently said, when it’s safe to play baseball, baseball will be back, and our fans will be back, and it will be part of the recovery process in the country. But safety and health is the paramount.”

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