Gonzales makes first pitch for big league job

Righty competing with Martinez, Garcia for fifth rotation spot

Gonzales makes first pitch for big league job

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals are opening Grapefruit League play by featuring three starting pitchers likely vying for one rotation spot. Following Carlos Martinez and preceding Jaime Garcia, Marco Gonzales made his first pitch on Friday as he seeks to find a way onto the Major League roster.

Gonzales' fate may well be determined by factors he can't control. Unless he unravels over the next month, Martinez will retain the inside track on the rotation job. Gonzales' pursuit of a bullpen job could be impeded by the performance of the other lefty relievers in camp.

Nevertheless, Gonzales started spring strong, throwing two scoreless innings against the Astros in Friday's 5-2 win. He issued a leadoff walk but went on to retire six of the final seven batters he faced. Seventeen of the 30 pitches Gonzales threw were strikes.

"To be honest, I had a little bit of nerves going," Gonzales said afterward. "That's normal, first time out in front of the crowd. I was trying to use those nerves to my advantage, get excited, and I think I was rushing a little bit. The second inning was good. I felt like my fastball command was better, and that opens up a lot of possibilities for me."

"I thought Marco did a pretty good job," added manager Mike Matheny. "He wasn't his sharpest. We know he has better fastball command than what he showed. That's one of his strengths. But he did a nice job of getting himself out of trouble."

In addition to spotting his fastball and changeup, Gonzales showcased the curveball and cutter that he has been working to improve. He threw three of each.

"For where we are at Spring Training, I'm where I want to be," Gonzales said. "I realize that the season is still a month away, so there is still a lot of room to grow and perfect those pitches and sharpen those tools."

The Cardinals haven't announced when Gonzales will pitch next and whether it will be in a starting capacity. If the Cardinals don't have room for Gonzales to make a start the next time through the order, he can piggyback another starting pitcher and still get the necessary work in.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.