Associated Press photo
Fernando Martinez circles the bases after homering off Tom Gorzelanny.
But some pitching lines are so noteworthy -- good or bad -- that they need explanation. So it was yesterday with Tom Gorzelanny, who endured through a nightmare of an appearance in the Nationals' 10-2 exhibition loss to the Astros.
Pitching in relief of Stephen Strasburg, Gorzelanny faced 12 Houston batters over two innings. He retired three of them. Seven wound up crossing the plate, all of them earned runs charged to the left-hander.
Oh, there were also a pair of three-run homers, four walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch.
Suffice it to say, this was not a positive outing for the 29-year-old lefty, though manager Davey Johnson took the blame for leaving him out there as long as he did.
Johnson probably would have pulled Gorzelanny after he walked back-to-back hitters in the fourth, the latter coming with the bases loaded. But due to a miscommunication with the bullpen, right-hander Ryan Mattheus wasn't ready to enter yet, so Gorzelanny was forced to stay in the game. He promptly let in one run on the wild pitch, then served up a three-run homer to Fernando Martinez.
"I guess I'm rusty," Johnson said. "Twelve years [without managing] spring training, I guess I'm rusty. Put that one on me for letting him out there to take a beating."
Gorzelanny wound up throwing 47 pitches over one official inning.
"He said he needed the work," Johnson said. "But that's not the kind of work I want to get him."
Though he's being stretched out right now as though he was a starter, Gorzelanny is expected to open the season in the Nationals' bullpen as one of two long relievers. He performed well in that role late last season, posting a 2.42 ERA in 15 relief appearances (as opposed to a 4.46 ERA in 15 starts), and that prompted the Nationals to tender him a contract over the winter and ultimately re-sign him for $3 million.
That doesn't necessarily mean Gorzelanny's roster spot is secure. Because he was an arbitration-eligible player this year, his full salary is not guaranteed. If the Nationals were to release him before March 21, they would be responsible for only one-sixth of his salary ($500,000).
The club made similar moves in 2008 with John Patterson and in 2009 with Shawn Hill, releasing each pitcher more than 15 days before the season opener and thus not being responsible for paying their full salaries.