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Cardinals' Gonzales set to debut in familiar park

AP - Sports

DENVER (AP) -- Marco Gonzales grew up rooting for the Colorado Rockies, even pitched at Coors Field a few times in his high school career.

Perhaps it's only fitting the St. Louis Cardinals left-hander will make his major league debut in familiar surroundings Wednesday.

His father, Frank Gonzales, is flying in for the occasion, taking a break from his duties as a pitching coach for the Rockies' minor league team, the Tri-City Dust Devils.

''It's bizarre being here, sitting here in this dugout,'' Gonzales said on the eve of his first start, which just happens to be against his hometown team.

As for all the ticket requests, well, he's letting his mom handle it so he can focus on pitching. He's anticipating a good turnout, though, since family and friends don't have that far to go with Fort Collins only 60 miles north of Denver.

Gonzales led Rocky Mountain High School to four straight state titles.

''I'm hoping that I've turned some Fort Collins natives into Cardinal fans overnight,'' said Gonzales, a first-round pick by St. Louis last season. ''People are pretty upset they have to root against the Rockies.''

The Cardinals promoted the 22-year-old Gonzales from Double-A Springfield out of necessity with Michael Wacha (right shoulder stress reaction) and Jaime Garcia (left shoulder inflammation) going on the 15-day disabled list Sunday. Gonzales was 3-2 with a 2.33 ERA for Springfield.

Gonzales has a deceptive fastball and a wicked changeup - pitches that served him well at elevation when he was a kid.

''A lot of guys come in here (to Colorado) not knowing what to expect,'' Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. ''But this is something he grew up with.''

Growing up, Gonzales' favorite Rockies players were infielder Andres Galarraga and Matt Holliday, who's now his teammate with St. Louis.

He also remembers Preston Wilson tossing him a ball before a game.

''Just little things like that I always remember about this field,'' he said.

Rockies manager Walt Weiss has a few memories of Gonzales, too. Like the time Gonzales hit a three-run homer in a playoff game when Weiss was coaching his son's high school team.

''A phenomenal high school pitcher and hitter,'' Weiss said. ''I thought he might go on to college and professionally as a hitter. He's that good.''

Still have that power?

''No, because I don't have a metal bat in my hand,'' laughed Gonzales, who was picked by Colorado in the 29th round in 2010, but played at Gonzaga. ''I love swinging it.''

''I'm trying to focus on pitching, but in the back of my mind, I'm pretty excited about that, too.''

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