After career year, Gio striving to be better in 2013
Nats' Cy Young candidate trying to improve command of all pitches
WASHINGTON -- Almost two weeks after watching his team lose Game 5 of the National League Division Series to the Cardinals, Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez already is preparing for the 2013 season. He is currently training in Miami and looking to improve his repertoire of pitches.
Gonzalez, 27, had his best Major League season in 2012, leading the Majors with 21 victories and recording a season-high 207 strikeouts. But Gonzalez is not satisfied. There is still more to accomplish, he says, and he is not talking about winning the Cy Young award, either.
"I will never be content. I strive to get better and I strive for greatness," Gonzalez said via telephone. "The day I retire from baseball is the day I can sit back and relax. ... For me, what I want to work on this offseason is the command of my changeup, command of my curveball, fastball, just command of my stuff.
"It's tough to pinpoint everything that you want all at once. This past year was the first time in the National League, and with the success that we had this year, and what I experienced, hopefully, I can get it going again and see what happens from there."
Gonzalez wasn't happy with what happened during the postseason. Gonzalez simply didn't pitch well, allowing five runs and walking 11 batters in 10 innings. In Game 1, he allowed two runs in five innings, but walked seven batters. It didn't help that he pitched on eight days' rest.
Then there was the Game 5 loss which eliminated the Nationals from the postseason.
Gonzalez had a 6-1 lead when he got into trouble in the fifth inning. The Cardinals had the bases loaded when the lefty threw a wild pitch that allowed Daniel Descalso to come home.
Three batters later, Allen Craig drew a walk, which allowed Shane Robinson to score and make it a 6-3 game. Gonzalez managed to get out of the inning when Yadier Molina flied out to Jayson Werth in right field.
According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, some of the Cardinals felt Gonzalez was upset over balls and strikes calls in the fifth inning. Gonzalez left the game after the fifth inning, but the Nationals would go on to lose the game, 9-7.
Gonzalez denied that he had problems with home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez.
"You see that I'm a very emotional guy. If you can figure that out, you can figure me out," Gonzalez said. "If [the Cardinals] found a glitch in my system, hey, they found something. But honestly, I left the game winning and we were one out away [from advancing to the National League Championship Series against the Giants]. I don't think there was too much that they figured out. That's how I see it. You are one strike away from the next level. If they figured it out after I was done, that pretty impressive."
Gonzalez believes the Nationals will be back in the postseason next year and it will be a different story because they are expected to have right-hander Stephen Strasburg for a full season. This past season, Strasburg was limited to 159 1/3 innings and was held out of the postseason after having Tommy John surgery in 2010.
"We thought we could have taken it all the way," Gonzalez said about this postseason. "We feel we can get there one day. Remember, there [was one guy] we were missing out on the field. It's a different story when you have an extra guy there. It's pretty clear we can be strong for next year.
"[Strasburg] is going to be one of our horses. He is going to bring such power and leadership to that rotation that next year is going to be fun. If you are a Nats fan, this is it. I'm not saying we are going to win it. I'm not writing my name on the trophy yet. We are going to give you exciting games every time. You have [Ross] Detwiler, [Jordan] Zimmermann, Strasburg and myself. It's going to be four horses going at you."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.