Gonzalez uses Adenhart’s spirit to dominate in first career start
I don’t typically post game stories on the blog because it’s redundant in terms of what I do for Orioles.com, but Friday’s game was one –if not the best — story I’ve ever covered. The Orioles’ 3-2 win was a feel-good story that is every reporter’s dream and was one of those nights you truly feel blessed to write a story that’s about so much more than what you read in the box score. You can read the full game story with video and related links here, but I’ve also included the text below. Enjoy.
ANAHEIM– Surrounded by approximately 200 family and friends, Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez put on a show in his first Major League start on Friday night. But it was the one notable absence — despite the crowd of 42,716 at Angel Stadium — that Gonzalez, a former Angels farmhand, perhaps clung to the most.
Using a glove once belonging to late Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, a tribute to a friend and Minor League teammate, Gonzalez fired seven inspired innings to lead Baltimore to a 3-2 series-evening win.
“I thought it was the perfect time to do it,” Gonzalez said of using the Rawlings Gold Glove model for the first time in a game. Gifted to him by Adenhart in 2007, the glove is never far from Gonzalez, traveling in his bag on buses and airplanes and serving as a constant reminder of his friend.
“We were pretty close,” Gonzalez said of Adenhart, who was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver in April 2009. “We played together for two years [and parts of three seasons]. I’m with him in my heart and obviously their family, I’m with them too. It wasn’t an easy thing for them.”
Nor has it been an easy path by any means for the 28-year-old Gonzalez. The Southern California product — who played baseball 50 miles away at San Fernando High –held the Angels to one run on three hits and two walks Friday night to give the Orioles a much-needed boost in their rotation and bring the right-hander what he called simply some “relief”.
“All the hard work, the ups and downs I’ve had, obviously that pushed me back a little bit but I’m here now,” said Gonzalez who was released by the Red Sox this winter and pitched in the Mexican Winter League before signing with Baltimore in late February. “And I’m going to do my best to help out the team and just keep going.”
Originally signed by the Angels as an undrafted free agent in 2004, Gonzalez missed all of the ’08 season due to a knee injury and was selected by Boston in the Rule 5 Draft that winter. He underwent Tommy John surgery in ’09 — which cost him the season — and made 17 appearances for Class A Advanced Salem the following year. Gonzalez pitched for three Red Sox affiliates last season — mainly for Double-A — before he was released in December.
He did not appear in Orioles big league camp, but turned heads in the organization after pitching to a 1.61 ERA in 14 games (six starts) in the Minors, and given the struggles of the team’s rotation — they have demoted three starters in the past week — Gonzalez was given a chance.
And he ran with it, putting on an emotionally-charged display that wasn’t lost on Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
“I’m an old fuddy duddy; I think of those things all the time,” Showalter when asked if he took in the magnitude of the moment for Gonzalez. “Not a day goes by where I don’t get an emotional tug of what’s going on. I’ve said it so many times, sometimes guys who are 28 to 32, a lot of things they expose themselves to, if they’ve absorbing things, they figure it out later in their career.
He’s got a lot of want-to. And tonight he had some can-to.”
Gonzalez used pinpoint command to attack the zone, striking out six and twice erasing a leadoff walk to keep pace with Angels lefty C.J. Wilson, who the Orioles tagged for three runs courtesy of Steve Pearce’s home run.
“The best way to say it is he pitched tonight,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Gonzalez who tossed his longest start of the season, including six games in Triple-A, in the 100-pitch performance. “He was in and out of the zone, had good life and used his breaking ball.”
Pearce gave Gonzalez all the help he needed with one swing, as he connected for a three-run jack off Wilson in the fifth inning. After Wilson Betemit’s leadoff single, Mark Reynolds worked his second walk of the night and Pearce sent a full-count pitch deep for his third homer, two of which have come off Wilson.
“I just feel comfortable when he’s pitching,” Pearce said. “I was able to get deep in the counts and wait him out until I got to my pitch.”