Then again, ever since Gonzalez signed with the Mets out of the Dominican Republic in 2013 his favorite pitcher had been Marlins righthander Jose Fernandez.
“When he died,” Gonzalez said of Fernandez’s September 2016 boat crash, “it felt like I lost someone in my family. He was my idol. I would always watch his pitching videos.”
Fernandez wasn’t the only Gonzalez-Marlins connection.
About 25 days before the trade, Gonzalez said his agent had sent him a pair of sunglasses in Marlins colors instead of what he wanted, which was the Mets’ blue and orange.
Call that a mistake . . . or destiny.
Either way, Gonzalez and Dominican center fielder Ricardo Cespedes are now Marlins. And in 2015, when Gonzalez threw his only pro no-hitter, Cespedes caught the final out in that Rookie-level Gulf Coast League game.
The 6-foot, 215-pound Gonzalez is 21 and has a thick lower half. His fastball has hit 98 mph, but he mostly works at 91-96. Gonzalez said he throws just two or three sliders per game because of potential damage that pitch can do to his elbow.
In his career with the Mets, Gonzalez went 29-13, 2.54, and upon reporting to high Class A Jupiter for the Marlins, he allowed only one run in five innings in his debut.
“His armside sinker is his strength,” Jupiter pitching coach Jeremy Powell said, “but he’s able to get to the glove side when needed. He’s a mature kid with an athletic body and a quick arm. He has good feel for his changeup, good breaking ball.”
Prior to this season, Gonzalez’s biggest workload was 69 innings in 2016. After his Marlins debut, he stood at 111 innings, and Gonzalez admitted he felt a bit tired.
But no matter when Gonzalez is shut down for the year, the Marlins added a pitcher who immediately jumps to near the top of their prospect list.
Added Powell: “He’s a welcome addition.”
Walter Villa is a writer based in Miami