The present may be bleak for the reeling Oakland Athletics, but they hope another piece of their future can make an immediate impact Wednesday.
The Athletics (53-59) landed the 22-year-old Gonzalez in an offseason deal that sent outfielder Nick Swisher to the Chicago White Sox. Originally a first-round pick in 2004, the right-hander led all minor league pitchers in 2007 with 185 strikeouts at Double-A Birmingham, and pitched this year at Triple-A Sacramento, where he went 8-7 with a 4.24 ERA while striking out 128 in 123 innings.
“I’m excited to see it,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “This is another one of the guys who is a big piece of what we’re building here. It’s going to be great to see him get the experience and get it started right here.”
Gonzalez, who pitched eight shutout innings against Nashville in his most recent start, will be the second-youngest member of the A’s re-tooled rotation following the trades of Rich Harden and Joe Blanton. Gonzalez is three months older than recently-acquired Sean Gallagher - added in the Harden deal. Oakland also features 24-year-olds Dallas Braden and rookie Greg Smith to complement staff ace and All-Star Justin Duchscherer, the senior member at 31.
The Athletics will be thrilled if Gonzalez can approach Smith’s effort Tuesday, when he limited the Blue Jays to two runs and four hits in six innings and left with a lead. However, closer Huston Street allowed two runs in the ninth as the Blue Jays (57-56) rallied for a 4-3 victory on a run-scoring double by Rod Barajas and two-out RBI single by Kevin Mench.
The loss was Oakland’s 15th in 17 games since the All-Star break.
“I’m frustrated with myself more than anything,” said Street, who is 1-4 with a 6.00 ERA and four blown saves in his past 16 appearances. “I’ve got to put it behind myself. It’s going to be difficult sleeping tonight, no doubt, but when I wake up in the morning, it’s over, and that’s how I’m going to approach it.”
A bright spot for the A’s was set-up man Brad Ziegler, who pitched two scoreless innings to extend his major league debut record scoreless streak to 34. He is three innings shy of the overall team scoreless innings record of 37, established by Mike Torres in 1976.
Toronto’s Shaun Marcum (5-5, 3.57 ERA) will try to snap out of a recent funk. He’s winless in seven starts since May 26, including three rough outings since coming off the disabled list. The right-hander failed to protect a six-run lead Friday at Texas, where he allowed six runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings before Toronto lost 9-8.
“The whole game I couldn’t locate my fastball at all,” said Marcum, who was sidelined with a strained elbow. “It’s tough to pitch if you can’t locate your fastball.”
Marcum pitched well April 10 against Oakland, limiting the A’s to one run and striking out eight in seven innings before Toronto eventually lost 3-2 in 12 innings. He is 0-1 with a 5.52 ERA in three lifetime starts versus the Athletics.