VIERA, Fla. — After an extended spring training, a trip to the World Baseball Classic and four more innings of work on Thursday, Gio Gonzalez is ready for the regular season to begin.
“My stuff is packed,” the Washington Nationals left-hander said. “I’m ready to jump on that plane and head back to D.C.”
Although Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Gonzalez was a little “lethargic” on Thursday, the left-hander dominated his final spring start, allowing one hit over four shutout innings and striking out seven in a 5-1 Washington victory.
Gonzalez, who went 21-8 last season, is slated to start Washington’s second game on April 3 at home against the Miami Marlins.
“Still trying to get that arm strength back, trying to build velocity and this and that,” the 27-year-old said. “I felt like as the innings went on, my arm felt better. It just started getting stronger and stronger . but one step at a time.”
In addition to making spring starts with the Nationals, Gonzalez also started one game for Team USA in the WBC, beating Puerto Rico in a game played in Miami, near his hometown of Hialeah, Fla.
Gonzalez was followed by three relievers Thursday, including closer Rafael Soriano, who pitched for the second straight day, walking one and striking out two. The Nationals held the Mets to just two hits.
“Gio pulled it together but he didn’t feel all that great,” Johnson said. “But he threw the ball all right. It was just a lethargic kind of deal. He had a great spring and it was nice to see Soriano. Looks like he’s getting closer.
A day after being held out of the lineup because of inflammation in his left thumb, left fielder Bryce Harper played. He had a single an RBI on a sacrifice fly.
Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa both hit solo home runs in a four-run second inning for the Nationals.
New York second baseman Daniel Murphy had one of the Mets’ two hits — a first-inning bloop single — in his first Grapefruit League game.
Murphy, who had been bothered by a strained right intercostal muscle, went 1 for 3 and even slid into second base after tagging up on a deep fly ball to center field in the first inning.
“I wanted to try to get in scoring position,” Murphy said. “Even if I get thrown out, I felt like it was the right play. I didn’t think I was going to tackle second base, but I made it.”
Despite the lack of at-bats this spring, Murphy was happy with the way he performed at the plate on Thursday, especially against a hard-throwing lefty like Gonzalez.
“I actually was pleasantly surprised by how far along I was, and not even on the base hit. That was trash,” Murphy said. “The line out (in my second at-bat) was a good swing. It was a good at-bat, especially off of Gio.”
It seemed like a long shot earlier this spring, but Murphy believes he will be ready for opening day, and said he didn’t even think about his injury during Thursday’s game.
“That was the good thing about today,” he said. “I didn’t feel it at all. I was able to just play the game. Now, I’ll just use these next two days to get my legs underneath me as much as possible.”
NOTES: LHP J.C. Romero will accompany the team back to Washington D.C. for Friday’s exhibition game against the New York Yankees. Barring injury to anyone else on the staff, he will then head to Syracuse to join the organization’s Triple-A affiliate .. The team was also expected to reassign INF/OF Micah Owings and 3B Carlos Rivero to their minor league camp, which would leave the Nationals with their 25-man roster — and a bullpen that has only one left hander, long man Zach Duke. . RHP Henry Rodriguez has apparently made the team despite being wild this spring. Rodriguez did not throw winter ball because of elbow surgery and was sidelined earlier in camp because of elbow tenderness. He is expected to pitch Friday against the Yankees in what could be his final test to see if he’s ready for the regular season. . Jayson Werth, who was hit by a pitch on the elbow Wednesday, did not play on Thursday. However, Johnson said the right fielder was fine and should be in the lineup Friday against the Yankees … New York RHP Jeremy Hefner, who took a one-hopper off his elbow on Tuesday will try to throw an inning on Friday when the Mets face the St. Louis Cardinals . 3B David Wright went 0 for 4 with two walks in a minor league game on Thursday. Wright, who is recovering from a strained intercostal muscle, wants to play in Friday’s game against the Cardinals, but will have to be cleared by team doctors first.
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