Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Gio on WBC invite: "It's an honor"
VIERA, Fla. -- Though Gio Gonzalez spent much of his camp-opening session with reporters yesterday answering questions about his possible connection to the Biogenesis clinic under investigation by MLB, the Nationals left-hander also spent a good amount of time on a much happier subject: His addition to Team USA's roster for next month's World Baseball Classic.
Gonzalez described the invitation as "an honor," one he couldn't pass up.
"You get to play for your country," he said. "It only happens every four years. To even be selected or mentioned, it has to be at the top of your [list of accomplishments]. To represent the United States, that says it by itself."
Gonzalez learned of his addition to the roster via a voicemail last week from manager Joe Torre (who also serves as MLB's vice president of baseball operations), a thrill in its own right.
"It was an honor getting his voicemail and listening to him talk," the left-hander said. "It's one of those privileges to play for such a manager ... in my opinion, a Hall-of-Fame manager and a player, too. When you get that invitation, it just puts a smile on your face. It makes you know you're still welcome by a lot of baseball players."
Gonzalez is just one of four starting pitchers currently on the American roster, along with the Blue Jays' R.A. Dickey, the Giants' Ryan Vogelsong and the Rangers' Derek Holland. Plenty of big names declined invitations to participate, citing the potential for injury or a desire to keep focus on their big-league teams, but Gonzalez didn't have to think twice about signing up.
"I'm speaking on my own. Some people are different," he said. "I look at it as, I want to represent them. At the end of the day, it's a good thing for the fact I get to represent my country, my family and where I'm from. The best thing to do is go out there and make sure you perform at the top of your [game]."
There are strict restrictions on all pitchers in the WBC, with limits of 65 pitches in the first round, 80 in the second round and 95 in the championship round.
Gonzalez insisted he's not worried about the potential for injury.
"I've been blessed," he said. "I've never been injured. It's been, I think, nine [professional] seasons and I've never been hurt. I thank god and knock on wood for that. But you look at the positives. It's something you're going to do anyway. You're going to throw anyway. Might as well represent your country and do it out there."
Gonzalez will spend less than three weeks in Viera at Nationals camp, building up arm strength through bullpen sessions and perhaps two Grapefruit League starts, before Team USA convenes March 3 in Phoenix for workouts. The tournament's first round is scheduled to be played from March 8-10, with the second round March 12-16 in Miami and the championship round March 17-19 in San Francisco.
If the Americans advance all the way to the final game, Gonzalez will be back in Nationals camp for only one week before the team heads north in advance of Opening Day.
The lefty won't approach this spring any differently than he has previous springs.
"I think it's almost as if you were preparing through spring training for the regular season," he said. "It's just: Go out there, try to stay healthy, try to compete. But at the same time make sure you're under control and don't try to do too much."
The WBC also will give the Miami native and son of a Cuban immigrant a chance to clear up a common misperception about him.
"Now people will know that I'm actually from here," he said with a laugh.