Last July, the Phillies and Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez agreed to a six-year contract worth upwards of $60 million. The deal hit a snag a few weeks later, reportedly due to concerns about his elbow, and the two sides later worked out a three-year deal worth only $12 million.
That substantial drop in price may have been a harbinger of things to come. According to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News, Gonzalez's velocity has lagged behind the team's other starters so far in spring training. "I'm interested to see him build arm strength," said manager Ryne Sandberg.
The Phillies originally planned to have Gonzalez report to the team's complex in Florida last September to pitch in Instructional League games, but he was only playing catch and long toss by mid October. Joe Jordan, the team's director of player development, said the club decided to take it easy on their new addition.
Now, obviously being concerned about a pitcher's arm strength during the first days of camp is pretty silly. Gonzalez is a bit of a different case though because the team found something they didn't like in his elbow and reduced his contract considerably. He also didn't pitch for two years prior to signing because he had been suspended in Cuba for previous defection attempts.
Philadelphia signed A.J. Burnett last week but Cole Hamels is dealing with a shoulder issue and is not expected to be ready for the start of the season. Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick will join Burnett in the rotation while Gonzalez, Jonathan Pettibone, Roberto Hernandez and Sean O'Sullivan compete for the remaining spots.