Gonzalez working on adding changeup
Orioles closer tosses scoreless inning vs. Twins on Monday
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles closer Michael Gonzalez has been working a changeup back into his repertoire this spring, with the hope that he can use the pitch during the regular season to complement his fastball-slider combo.
"It's just trying to get my confidence going with that changeup," said Gonzalez, who tossed one scoreless inning in Monday's 5-0 loss to the Twins. "I know it's a good pitch and the coaches tell you it's a good pitch, but it's actually going out there and getting it done and feeling confident with it."
Gonzalez said he used the changeup when he came up through the Minors, but he got away from it in previous seasons. He threw the pitch several times during Monday's game, including two to left-handed hitters, where he says the pitch has traditionally been the most effective.
"I don't even worry about the velocity [of the fastball] until about a week before [the regular season]," Gonzalez said. "That's when I really start rearing back and letting it eat. Right now, it's about trying to get my location in and working on those pitches.
"So that's something that this Spring Training you are going to see me do a lot of -- just going out there and letting it go. Throwing that changeup and trying to get a better feel for it."
Signed to two-year deal in the offseason, Gonzalez underwent Tommy John surgery on his left elbow in 2007 and missed most of '08. Last season, he set career highs in appearances (80), innings pitched (74 1/3) and strikeouts (90) and has held opposing hitters to a career .209 batting average.
"I felt good overall," Gonzalez said of Monday's outing, his second this spring. "I definitely worked on some things this time as opposed to [Friday's game where] I was very high, I missed down in the zone. So that [was] a lot better [on Monday]. "
Gonzalez had a rocky one-inning debut on Friday -- allowing a run on two hits and a walk -- and frequently missed high in the zone. On Monday, he admitted the problem was part mechanics and part excitement.
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"I am a little amped," Gonzalez said. "But it's also just try not to rush my body. And I tend to do that sometimes with the swaying when I don't have it on right with the rhythm. It kind of makes me rush a little bit.
"So that's obviously what I'm using Spring Training for -- to just get myself ready and the mechanics where they need to be."
After getting Jason Kubel to fly out, Gonzalez walked Brendan Harris and yielded a double to Jacque Jones. When Harris came around to try to score on Jones' double, Adam Jones fired to shortstop Cesar Izturis, who threw to the plate. Luke Scott cut off the throw just several feet in front of home, but he managed to throw it in time to nail the standing Harris.
Given that it was a Spring Training game, Gonzalez was able to laugh off the bizarre 8-6-3-2 play.
"I was about to scream at him, I was two seconds from screaming at him, 'Let it go'," Gonzalez said. "But you know, that's why we work on [pitchers' fielding practice]. That's what Spring Training is for. You don't see that during the games or during the season. I kind of chuckled, because it was an out. So obviously, it's a lot funnier when it's an out."
Following the game, manger Dave Trembley pointed out that Scott shouldn't have cut off that ball. Trembley was also impressed with the 17 pitches he saw from Gonzalez, citing the increased strike ratio (11/17) from the veteran lefty.
"Overall, it was a positive thing for me," Gonzalez said.
He is scheduled to follow up Monday's outing with a one-inning performance Friday against the Florida Marlins.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.