Cuban import Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez’s long-awaited emergence on the Philadelphia Phillies’ roster could take a bit more time. If his start Saturday afternoon against the New York Yankees was any indication, Gonzalez is not quite ready for the big leagues and could start the 2014 season with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
It took the 27-year-old righty 50 pitches to get through 1 2/3 innings in his first Spring Training appearance. He struggled mightily with his control, walking four batters while surrendering two hits and one earned run in the Phillies’ 4-0 loss to the Yankees.
Gonzalez did post two strikeouts, but of the five outs he recorded, three came against minor league players.
Despite early hopes that he could crack into the Phillies’ starting rotation for the upcoming season, a rough start to Spring Training reveals a need for more time at the lower levels. Gonzalez has hardly pitched over the last two years since his first attempt to escape from his home country.
While the return on investment may not be ideal for the Phils, who gave the pitcher $12 million over three years last summer, they must be understanding of the situation. The talent they saw when they first signed him is still there, but he—like most baseball players who’ve been away from the game—needs time to readjust to the high level of play required in the Major Leagues. And with three years devoted to him, the Phillies shouldn’t rush him at this point and time.
The biggest issues with his performance Saturday were his control and the velocity on his fastball.
Gonzalez has only pitched a handful of times since first throwing on Jan. 6. Concerns remain regarding surgery in 2012 to remove bone chips from his elbow, but the Phillies have been working with him to get him back to pitching condition.
During his two-game showcase in Tijuana for Major League scouts in early 2012, Gonzalez was pitching in the mid-90s. He struggled to register his fastball consistently in the low 90s against the Yankees on Saturday while also throwing inside the strike zone.
For their sake, it’s hopefully just a matter of building up confidence and regaining arm strength. The best opportunity for him to do that will be down at Lehigh Valley with a chance to earn his way onto the Phillies roster later this season.
Lou Musto covers the Lehigh Valley IronPigs for Examiner.com. You can follow him on Twitter @LouisMusto for all the latest Lehigh Valley IronPigs news.