The Baltimore Orioles begin their 2016 season this week, and while that is exciting news as I cannot stand the winter since it deprives us of baseball, there was some not so happy news coming out of the O’s spring training with the O’s releasing pitcher Miguel Gonzalez.
Initially, when the Orioles brought in Miguel Gonzalez, I had a mild panic attack as I initially got confused with Mike Gonzalez, who the O’s brought in to close games out in 2009 and 2010 but instead he just raised my blood pressure on a daily basis. Luckily, this was not him.
Miguel Gonzalez traveled an interesting route to get to Baltimore. Gonzalez was signed by the then Anaheim Angels in 2004 as an amateur free agent before being drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2008 from the Angels in the Rule 5 Draft. He was then released by the Red Sox in 2011 before signing with the Orioles as a free agent in March of 2012.
The Mexican-born Gonzalez started off the 2012 season in AAA Norfolk where he proceeded to go 3-2 with a 1.61 ERA over 14 games including six starts. Gonzalez made his debut on May 29th out of the bullpen and made two other relief appearances before getting his first start against none other than the first team to draft him, the Los Angeles Angels. Gonzalez then pitched a gem of a game, going seven strong innings while allowing only three hits and one earned run as he picked up the win.
While that game did impress me, what would follow is what cemented his ability in my mind. As the Orioles were battling with the New York Yankees for a playoff spot that season, the Orioles had a late August series against the Yankees in New York. During the game on August 31st with the Orioles only two games behind the Yanks, Gonzalez pitched seven sterling shutout innings, allowing only four hits and striking out nine. If I wasn’t sold yet on Gonzalez, I was that night.
Gonzalez was also huge down the stretch for the Orioles that September, winning his last three starts during the regular season, allowing a combined four earned runs over 19 2/3 innings pitched. If that wasn’t enough, what happened next just blew my mind.
With the Orioles advancing to the ALDS to play the Yankees, Gonzalez took the mound in game three with the series knotted at one win apiece. Gonzalez did everything in his power to give the Orioles a victory, but thanks to another Jim Johnson meltdown, the Yankees wound up winning in 12 innings.
Gonzalez went on the mound at Yankee Stadium and gave a performance worthy of a standing ovation from both sets of fans. Gonzalez pitched seven glorious innings, allowing only one run and striking out eight Yankee batters. He left as the winning pitcher of record but left with a no-decision. Gonzalez went on to pitch very well in 2013 and 2014, going 11-8 with a 3.78 ERA in 2013 and 10-9 with a 3.23 ERA in 2014.
2015 was not so kind to Gonzalez as he battled injuries to post a 9-12 record with a 4.91 ERA, which unfortunately carried over into this spring as he sported a 9.78 ERA while his velocity seemed to dip below 90 MPH on his fastball.
Unfortunately, this is the end of the road for Gonzalez in Baltimore, at least wearing the orange and black. While it would be nice to see him try to get completely healthy and get his velocity back up in the minors, the Orioles are not willing to pay someone $5 million with the hopes they can get their velocity back and get back to their pre-2015 form. I definitely see the business side of this, and from the Baltimore front office standpoint, it totally makes sense, and while I agree with the decision, a little something inside of me died a little when I read the news that he was released.
The update is that now Gonzalez will get his shot with the Chicago White Sox in the hopes that he can regain his velocity and eventually join the Sox to help out their rotation. I hope that is the case as Gonzalez seems to be a legitimately good guy who epitomized the Orioles teams during their playoff runs of 2012 and 2014, someone who not too many people knew much about but somehow got the job done. I hope now he can do the same for the White Sox.
By Andy Mindzak