ZEBULON, N.C.–We’ll have more from White Sox lefthander Gio Gonzalez soon, but we felt like his Thursday outing had to me immediately addressed.
The 2004 first-round supplemental pick struck out 12–one shy of his career-high in Double-A Birmingham’s 2-1, 11-inning loss to Carolina. Gonzalez allowed a run on three hits over six innings of work.
His fastball ranged between 91-94 mph, with his trademark video game hammer curve and average changeup. But the highlight, at least for us, wasn’t when Gonzalez struck out the side (third baseman Lee Mitchell, first baseman Grant Psomas and catcher Brett Hayes) in the fourth.
The highlight came in the very first inning when Gonzalez, who scuffled with the shape of the mound all night–the 21-year-old was constantly stomping, scraping or scooping up dirt from his landing point at Five County Stadium–caught Mitchell looking after getting squeezed by home plate umpire Nicholas Nolde.
With two outs in the inning, Gonzalez got Carolina shortstop Chase Lambin to roll over to second baseman Jason Bourgeois, who booted the ground ball. Gonzalez then put Mitchell in a 1-2 hole, and proceeded to backdoor him with two straight curveballs–both calls were questionable, and Mitchell’s knees buckled both times–to bring the count to 3-2.
That’s when Gonzalez reached back and fired a 93 mph fastball over the outer half and made frozen pizza out of the 25-year-old third baseman.
“He works fast and when he gets in that rhythm, look out,” a scout with an American League club said. “He was beating everybody, and not just with pure stuff all the time. I thought he did an outstanding job at establishing the fastball early and had a plan to attack. When he needs that little extra or he needs that breaking ball, he’ll throw it for a strike.
“Hitters just gave in to him. His breaking ball is tough to pick up, partly because of the deception, partly because you think there’s just no way it’s in the zone coming out of his hand. But another big part of that is how fast he works. The breaking ball will freeze you and the fastball just gets on guys. As a hitter, you have to do what you can to take him out of his pace. Once he gets going like he did here, it’s over.”
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