Marco Gonzales had a special guest for his first start as part of the Mariners organization on Monday: Jerry Dipoto, the man who traded for him.
The Mariners general manager saw Gonzales earn the win while pitching six solid innings in the Tacoma Rainiers’ 4-3 victory over the Sacramento River Cats at Cheney Stadium.
Gonzales, acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals last week, gave up three runs on six hits and struck out five. He walked just one and stayed sharp with his fastballs, throwing in the 89 to 93 mph range.
Rainiers manager Pat Listach was impressed with what he saw.
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“As we were told, he’s a thrower with a plus changeup and that’s what he did,” Listach said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen him and he came as advertised. He came out and executed his pitches. That’s what we are looking for.”
The Mariners acquired Gonzales in a July 21 trade with the Cardinals in exchange for the young slugger Tyler O’Neill, a top outfield prospect. With the Mariners trying to stay in the American League playoff hunt and needing pitching, they dealt O’Neill hoping that Gonzales can be of help sooner than later.
Gonzales, who has pitched in 12 games in the majors over three seasons, missed part of the 2015 season after suffering a severe left pectoral injury, and he missed all of last season after undergoing ligament replacement surgery on his left elbow in April.
But on Monday he continued his bounce back that began earlier this year with St. Louis’ Triple-A team. With the Memphis Redbirds, Gonzales posted a 6-4 record with a 2.78 ERA.
“Everything has been really really smooth,” Gonzales said. “I have been really blessed and thankful that I have worked with some great people with the Cardinals have enabled me to come back strong and enabled me to get back on the field without pain.
“This year has been a blessing just because of that.”
The left-handed pitcher kept the Sacramento batters guessing with first pitch curveballs for strikes and good zip on his fastball. Gonzales pitched five scoreless innings before surrendering three runs in the top of the six, ending his day.
But Gonzales knows that he can’t start thinking about getting a call up by the Mariners. He said he is focused on what’s in front of him.
“There is a ton of competition in St. Louis and think that is something that is really going to help me going forward,” Gonzales said. “I hope I can keep that competitive edge while I’m here and just fight for a spot.
“Day in and day out (in St. Louis) I was just doing what I can. I am going to continue doing that and just pitch like I have something to prove because I do. And wherever that takes me is where I will be, but I am just looking day-to-day right now.”