Gio Gonzalez is making noise as Yankees decision day nears
MOOSIC, Pa. — “I’m going to put everything I can here, try the best I can. If it’s not good enough for 30 teams …”
And it dawns on him. He catches himself, pushing away the pesky future and clutching onto the present — as frustrating as it must be.
Gio Gonzalez stops and starts again.
“Right now, I’m not even thinking 30 teams,” said the Yankees’ Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Opening Day starter. “If it’s not good enough for this team that I’m with right now, that’s all that matters. I want to perform for the team that has me in their minors right now. Hopefully something happens.”
That has been the refrain for an entire offseason for the 33-year-old veteran, a fixture in the majors since debuting in 2008 with Oakland. He has made two All-Star teams — been occasionally brilliant — but is better known for an unflagging consistency, pitching at worst 195 innings from 2010-13 and averaging about 187 innings per season over his past nine years.
Hopefully something happens, because for a long time nothing did.
Gonzalez was a victim of the free-agency freeze that still breathes in the form of Dallas Keuchel. In a league more deliberately comprised of the haves and have-nots than any time in baseball history, an aging starter who didn’t have the ceiling contenders were looking for was ignored. No one called. It was “miserable.”
He had to get creative just to stay in shape, calling “whoever was available” in Miami for a glove to catch the left-handed tosses.Most perplexing for Gonzalez was the why. He struggled with Washington last season, putting up a 4.57 ERA in 27 starts, but rediscovered himself after a deadline trade to Milwaukee. He can tell you how good he was immediately before no team wanted him.
“But apparently it wasn’t good enough,” Gonzalez told The Post recently from PNC Field. “5-0 [3-0, but the Brewers won all five starts] with a 2 ERA [2.13] doesn’t work anymore. Apparently I didn’t hit my analytic numbers. I don’t know what it was.”
The only team that eventually reached out was the Yankees, who offered him a minor league deal he quickly accepted March 19 — weeks into camp. He had an abbreviated spring training and now has a couple outings to show he’s more Brewers Gonzalez than Nationals Gonzalez. He can opt out of his pact Saturday, which looms larger for the Yankees with each passing day.
Gonzalez insisted he doesn’t think about the deadline for when he has to decide whether to test free agency again. The Yankees are thinking about it. Luis Severino opened one hole Domingo German has plugged for now. The health concerns that come with each CC Sabathia sprint to cover first and with each pitch delivered by James Paxton (136 innings pitched was his career high before last season) demand some insurance from a system that lacks ready-made depth.
Gonzalez’s climb back from a fall he didn’t see coming didn’t start smoothly. He got bombed in his debut, surrendering eight runs in four innings to Buffalo on April 4. The pitcher who is trying to open eyes had his own closed.
“These [Triple-A] people are trying to prove a point, swing the bat,” he said, piecing together what happened. “They’re not going to think you’re just going to walk into the house and throw cookie-cutters down the middle. … You’re going to have to use other pitches. Fastball you can’t just get by with.”He has bounced back, combining for 11 innings of two-run ball, including 18 strikeouts, in a pair of starts since. A pitcher on a mission, out to prove every other team wrong, pay them back for ignoring what was in front of them. Right?
“No,” Gonzalez said. “I have nothing left to prove to people. [I] throw 180 innings, do your thing, I’m durable, doing it for the last 10 years. If I still have to prove a point, that’s embarrassing in this sport. Back then, that’s what you wanted, a guy who can get you innings, save some of your bullpen, give you some life.
“I don’t know what’s above me. I just know what I can do in front of me. And the Yankees were the only team that gave me that opportunity. I can only be grateful for this organization for as long as they need me.”