PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Gio Gonzalez wasn’t sure how fans would treat him in his first outing since his name surfaced in reports about a clinic drawing scrutiny from Major League Baseball.
Gonzalez drew cheers and positive chants Monday night as he pitched two hitless innings for the Washington Nationals in a 6-4 win over the New York Mets.
The left-hander who led the majors with 21 wins last season struck out three and walked one.
Gonzalez recently was linked to a Miami-area clinic under investigation by MLB for allegedly supplying performance-enhancing drugs to players. Gonzalez denied getting PEDs from the clinic, and last week said the players’ union told him blood and urine tests he took after the report were clean.
“It’s good to get on the mound again and get back at it, especially with the fan support I was getting out there,” Gonzalez said. “It’s good to hear the fans still support and love you.”
“You get the butterflies again, which is a good thing. When you get that feeling, you know baseball hasn’t left your emotions or anything like that. When I got the first pitch out the way, I was pretty excited to go out and play my game,” he said.
Gonzalez heard fans chanting his name as he came in from the bullpen before the game, then received a round of applause as he walked off the mound after his second and final inning.
The 2012 All-Star didn’t get as much support from his teammates in terms of their fielding in the first inning. The infield committed two errors behind him.
The only blip to show up on his pitching line, however, was a walk issued to Brandon Hicks.
“I was just going out there, trying to pound the strike zone and try to get them back in the dugout as fast as possible,” Gonzalez said. “The first inning it was like, `I’ve got to find my arm slot, I’ve got to pick up the target a little earlier.’ It’s not easy, especially falling behind on that lineup. These guys are not easy to face. They will make you pay if you fall behind on them.”
The Mets managed just two hits through the first seven innings, including a long home run by Ike Davis off Ross Ohlendorf.
The Nationals scored three times off Mets starter Collin McHugh, who made his major league debut last August. He gave up six hits in 2 1-3 innings Monday.
New York played minus left fielder Lucas Duda and shortstop Ruben Tejada.
Tejada was scratched from the original lineup because of cramping in his quadriceps. Duda, who opened the spring 0 for 7 with six strikeouts, will sit at least two games while working to get his swing back, manager Terry Collins said.
Collins said Duda’s slow start is not a sign of a setback with the wrist he had surgically repaired in November. Rather, Collins said it is a result of Duda not being able to swing a bat until Jan. 23.
“He’s just not ready to play,” Collins said. “Due to the wrist injury, he hasn’t been able to get the amount of reps he normally does to feel comfortable. I’m not here to embarrass anybody, so when he is ready to play, we’ll get him back in there.”
Duda, who also is working on a new stance, said he isn’t worried about catching up and reiterated his wrist feels fine.
“It’s two games,” Duda said. “We’re not going to hit the panic button just yet.”
NOTES: Mets closer Frank Francisco played catch with Collins at 60 feet on flat ground Monday, a 25-toss effort that marked his first time throwing since being shut down at the start of camp with elbow inflammation. Collins said Francisco likely would advance to 70 feet on Wednesday, but he needs to get to 150 feet before getting on a mound. … Nationals OF Eury Perez, who made his major league debut with a September callup, went 3 for 3 and scored twice.
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