Mancuso: Gio Returned To His Magical Ballpark

This is how it works. The Mets were the preferred choice for Gio Gonzalez but the bullpen was not suitable. So the Milwaukee Brewers were second on the list and their struggling pitching staff needed a veteran.  So Saturday Gio Gonzalez returned to the Brewers with a new contract.

And this is how it worked. Sunday afternoon, Gio Gonzalez returned to his ballpark of choice. Citi Field is his ballpark and he was on the mound and not for the Mets. They could have had him and that 11-2 record, 1.75 ERA of 17 career starts in Flushing.

The opposing pitcher. Steven Matz (3-1)  got the win with some late inning run support. The  Mets salvaged the final game of the series with a  5-2 win, Matz is the other left-hander who has become more consistent with the Mets struggling rotation.  For Gio Gonzalez, It was always in his plan to be in that rotation and provide Steven Matz a boost.

“This ballpark has some type of magic; I love iove it,” Gonzalez said after his solid  season debut of five innings, six hits and two earned runs. He did not get the win or a loss but he gave the Brewers innings and kept his team in the game.

Gio On The Mound: Credit: Mike McCann

It was a tough first inning. But the veteran of 12 seasons, he settled in. It was the magic he knows about Citi Field.  It could have been more Mets magic in their rotation but business said he was suited more as a starter and not a pitcher coming out of the pen.

“A bit of a rough start,” manager Craig Counsell said. “But then he settled in and gave us a chance.” Matz also gave the Mets a chance. There seems to be nothing wrong with his velocity or curve.  The Mets needed to get a win and stay above .500 with two more games to be played in the month of April beginning Monday night with the Reds at Citi Field.

Let’s return  to the specifics of this. GM Brodie Van Wagenen offered a deal. The money and terms are $3 million for a year and more based on points as it is based on performance. The Yankees had a similar deal for Gonzalez. He opted out after three starts at Scranton.

It was almost certain that Gonzalez was a Met after signing on with CAA, of course the player rep firm that Van Wagenen was  once drawing a pay check from. 

The Mets, again no fault of the GM for trying, had a similar deal on the table. However Gio Gonzalez wants to be a starter and keep his team in ballgames.

He kept the Brewers in the ballgame.  Mets’ hitters went 0-4 batting against his changeup and 3-for-9 facing his curveball. The velocity was good, curve and changeup were almost perfect. For the first start that was acceptable and better than  what Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard delivered for the Mets in the first two games of this series.

But this was Citi Field, the magical ballpark for Gio Gonzalez.   He said the rhythm and flow was good and done after 82 pitches.

“ They slotted me in right away,” Gonzalez said. “ it was fine with me.” He stayed in shape during the brief hiatus after the starts in Scranton and worked out near his home in Miami  

“The  Yankees helped and I didn’t take for granted being home,  got a bullpen in,” he said.

And then Gio Gonzalez said it again. “It’s nice to be back in New York.  This ballpark has some type of magic. I love it. Nice fan base here. Always got to be on your toes.” But this is business and Gio Gonzalez got a taste of reality as the complexion has changed with the baseball term known as analytics, and for now is settled in.

His wife wanted New York. “Was her first choice,” he said. He has some family in the area and cited good schools were here for his two young boys.  But it all came down to starting as opposed to being in the bullpen.

Look at it this way. This is a one-year contract. If everything works to his advantage, and assuming the Brewers once again go in another direction, Gio Gonzalez is testing free agency again in early November.

At 33-years of age, there could still be a plan to pitch on a regular basis in the ballpark that Gio Gonzalez calls magical.

Comment: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso


About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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