One of the most important trades that the Nationals have made since moving to Washington D.C. was for Gio Gonzalez. At only 26 years of age, Gonzalez is coming off of two full seasons with the Oakland Athletics that saw him pitch at least 200 innings with ERAs of 3.23 in 2010 and 3.13 in 2011. If the Nationals are to compete for a playoff spot in 2012 and beyond, Gio will be an important piece for the starting rotation, pitching after Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.
In his first game of the 2012 season, Gonzalez was roughed up, giving up four runs and seven hits in less than four innings. However, in the April 12 game against the Reds, Gio returned back to form, pitching seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts to go along with it. His fastball was up in the low 90s and his control was much better than in his previous start.
With Drew Storen undergoing elbow surgery recently, the Nationals will have to rely upon Brad Lidge as the go-to closer over the next few weeks (Henry Rodriguez is also expected to fill in from time to time as well). If the April 12 game against the Reds was any indication, it could be a long year for Washington's bullpen in 2012. In that game the Nationals held a 2-0 lead going into the ninth, with Lidge starting off poorly with a walk. He then gave up a double to Scott Rolen and walked the next batter to load the bases intentionally. Unfortunately the plan didn't work out, as Ryan Ludwick hit a single to score in two runs and tie the game.
The Nationals were able to get the win in extra innings, but hopefully Lidge can perform better in the closer's role, or else the front office may have to make some moves if the team continues to have success beyond April and Storen doesn't return to old form.
Ryan Kekoufski lives near the Nationals' stadium and has been following the team ever since they moved to Washington D.C. He covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network, and currently resides in Virginia.
- Gio Gonzalez
- Washington Nationals
- Brad Lidge
- Cincinnati Reds