For the second straight year, Gio Gonzalez's numbers took a step backwards. His ERA was a full run higher than it was just two years ago, and his 90.8 mph average fastball is disconcerting for a pitcher who has sat at 92 mph or better for most of his career. Nonetheless, he won at least 10 games and struck out at least 160 batters for the seventh straight season, and that consistency made it a no-brainer for the Nationals to pick up the $12 million option on his contract for 2017. In a rotation dominated by power righties, Gonzalez's big curveball from the left side gives opposing hitters a very different look, and while he probably won't approach the 21 wins he amassed in 2012 again, he should help solidify the back end of the Nats staff -- assuming that his lost fastball velocity isn't a sign of a further decline ahead.
Gonzalez gave up five runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five over five innings during Sunday's Grapefruit League game against the Astros. Home runs by Jake Marisnick and Marwin Gonzalez accounted for most of the damage, but despite the rough line in the box score, the 31-year-old lefty increased his workload to 91 pitches and would seem to be ready for the regular season. Gonzalez will slot in as the Nats' fourth starter to begin the year, putting him in line to make his first appearance April 7 in Philadelphia.
Gonzalez allowed one run on three hits and a walk while striking out two over 4.1 innings during Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Braves. He generally puts up good spring numbers -- Gonzalez hasn't had a Grapefruit League ERA over 2.84 since 2012 -- but he's been almost unhittable this year, giving up just eight hits in 16.1 innings along with a 1.10 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 9:4 K:BB. The veteran lefty won't be that good during the regular season, but his track record suggests he should at least be able to improve on last season's 4.57 ERA.
Gonzalez walked one and struck out two over five no-hit innings in Thursday's Grapefruit League game against the Mets. He's now got a stellar 0.75 ERA and 0.67 WHIP through 12 spring innings, although Gonzalez's 7:3 K:BB is a little less exciting. The Florida native has made noises this spring about appearing in the 2017 All-Star Game, which will be held in Miami, and his performance so far in March suggests he isn't joking around.
Gonzalez worked three innings in Friday's Grapefruit League game against the Cardinals, allowing one run on four hits and a walk while striking out four. He's looked sharp through his first three spring outings, posting a 1.29 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in seven innings, but Friday marked the first time this spring that he started getting punchouts as well. Gonzalez is no fantasy ace, but he's been one of the more reliable mound assets around, winning at least 10 games and striking out at least 160 batters in seven straight seasons. There's no reason to suspect he won't make it eight straight in 2017.
Gonzalez allowed one hit and one walk in three shutout innings during Saturday's Grapefruit League game against the Cardinals. He was originally only set to throw two innings but was so economical he needed a third frame to get all his work in. Gonzalez has never been known as an efficient pitcher, but he did manage to get his BB/9 below 3.00 for the first time in his career in 2016, albeit barely at 2.99.