Mike Rizzo on Gio Gonzalez’s Commanding Start

WASHINGTON — Gio Gonzalez has two commanding starts under his belt, opening 2017 with a 0.69 ERA over 13 innings.

Coincidentally, that’s the same ERA with which he opened the 2016 season, as he’s allowed only one earned run over each of his first two starts — in the same number of innings — in consecutive seasons.

Though Gonzalez is likely to come down to earth, his walk and strikeout rates — 1.4 walks/9 strikeouts per nine innings — are an early sign of command on the mound in this young season.

So much so, it was the subject of the Burke & Herbert Bank Fan Question of the Week during Nationals General Manager and President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo’s weekly appearance with The Sports Junkies.

Gio Gonzalez did not walk a batter [Tuesday] night. Retired 11 straight batters to end his outing. He’s had two solid starts to being the season. What’s been the key to his turnaround? — Manuel in Alexandria

“I think the key to Gio’s turnaround is his key since he’s been a big-league pitcher,” Rizzo said on 106.7 The Fan. “His stuff is really good. He needs to trust his stuff, attack hitters, get in a good rhythm on the mound like he had last night.”

“He had a great tempo last night. He had a great rhythm,” he said. “He went after hitters, he attacked them. When he does that, he is very, very good — as good as any left-handed pitcher in the big leagues. When he starts dragging in the tempo, and not having a rhythm and letting outside influences dictate what he’s going to do in a game is where he gets in trouble.”

“We’ve had [pitching coach] Mike Maddux has helped him quite a bit with the mechanical and the mental side of pitching,” Rizzo explained. “Livan Hernandez in spring training was a real positive voice in his ear throughout spring training. I think that Gio’s in a really, really good spot right now. He’s got command of three plus pitches and attacking the zone, so we like where he’s at, too.”

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