Today we sit 51 days away from Miller Park coming to life for the regular season. Sure, there are a couple of Spring Training games against the Chicago White Sox the weekend prior, but April 1st is when the games start to matter.
Wearing 51 for the upcoming season will be a new addition to the ball club for 2013…
Now a 10 year Major League veteran, Michael Vela Gonzalez was originally drafted all the back in 1997 by the Pittsburgh Pirates. A 30th round selection, Gonzalez made his big league debut in 2003. It didn’t go well.
Starting in 2004 though, Gonzalez put together a six-year run where he had an ERA over 2.70 just once, and he was under 1.60 twice. Gonzalez has 56 career Saves, including a career high 24 in 2006 for Pittsburgh.
Gonzalez spent four seasons in Pittsburgh and was then traded to Atlanta in January 2007. He would pitch as a Brave for parts of three seasons.
The reason for the “parts of” inclusion above is that after signing with the Braves, Gonzalez experienced some elbow soreness in Spring Training eventually leading to Tommy John surgery on Thursday, May 31, 2007.
That was the start of a bit of an injury bug for Gonzalez as he would only pitch in 29 games in 2010, though that also likely had a little something to do with his pitching in a career high 80 games in 2009.
After pitching in 2010 with the Baltimore Orioles, Gonzalez began 2011 there as well. He was traded mid-season to the Texas Rangers but made only seven appearances for them.
So that brings us, quickly and with a decided lack of detail, to the 2012 season.
Gonzalez signed a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals and contributed 35.2 innings toward 98 victories and a National League East Division crown, the first in Nationals history in Washington.
Though he was far better against left-handed hitting, Gonzalez saw an almost equal split of hitters. It speaks to how the Brewers should use him in 2013, but also how the Brewers might use him.
In my opinion, Gonzalez would be best served primarily facing and handling left-handed hitters in high-leverage situations. It won’t always be a LOOGy situation, but if it’s close and late against the Cincinnati Reds, for example, and Jay Bruce is coming up, I would hope that Ron Roenicke has called down to the bullpen so that Gonzalez can be ready to go.
I fully expect Roenicke to utilize Gonzalez in full innings too. That’s based on two things. First, the way he used Manny Parra in relief speaks to how he views left-handed relievers, but also that Roenicke has said that he doesn’t necessarily even need a lefty reliever. I’m hoping, though, that with two southpaws in the bullpen in 2013 he’ll be able to play match ups more than he has in the past and surprise all of us.
I made reference to the splits that Gonzalez has posted back in my article when the Brewers first signed him. If you want to see the specific numbers you can click right here. But suffice it to say that Gonzalez is very good when facing a hitter from the same side.
Gonzalez’ contract is just a one-year pact and breaks down financially thusly.
It’s worth $2.25 million guaranteed but has incentives built in should Gonzalez end up closing for the Brewers. He would earn an additional $50,000 for 25 games finished, $75,000 each for 30 and 35 games finished and $100,000 apiece for 40 and 50 games finished.
Gonzalez is being counted on to come through in important situations for the Brewers in 2013. Important situations where the men called upon to handle similar situation in 2012 failed too often. It’s why, assuming seven members, the Opening Day bullpen in 2013 will feature six new arms.
This is an effective veteran who is still very good at what he does and would be even better if he focused on lefties. That being said, we Brewers fans should be able to expect more of what the Nationals fans saw in 2012.
And if we get that, we along with the Brewers coaching staff will be able to breathe easier more often than any of us got to over the previous 162.
That sounds good to me.
Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:
- #53 Brandon Kintzler
- #54 Josh Stinson
- #57 Khris Davis
- #58 Josh Prince
- #59 John Axford
- #60 Wily Peralta
- #61 Darren Byrd
- #63 Tyler Thornburg
- #64 Mike Fiers
- #65 Miguel De Los Santos
- #67 Santo Manzanillo
- #68 Jesus Sanchez
- #70 Nick Bucci
- #71 Johnny Hellweg
- #73 Ariel Peña
- #74 Michael Olmsted
- #75 Travis Webb
- #77 Jed Bradley
- #78 Taylor Jungmann
- BONUS ARTICLE: #91-94 Adam Weisenberger, Hunter Morris, Kentrail Davis, Rafael Neda