LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Marco Gonzales expects to hear from his father, Frank, at some point on Wednesday night. Rarely does Dad let one of his son's outings pass by without checking in to dissect it.
Now, Frank Gonzales has plenty of credibility in this area. He's currently the manager for the Rockies' Class A short-season Boise affiliate after previous stops as a Minor League pitching coach and coaching at the collegiate (Colorado State University) and local (Fort Collins (Colo.) High School) levels. The elder Gonzales also played 10 years in the Minors.
While he wasn't Marco Gonzales' only coach growing up, he was the most invested. Pitching with efficiency was one of the lessons his father most impressed upon him.
"It was just always a conversation after a game," the Cardinals' young lefty said. "If I knew in the back of my mind that if I had gone to some 2-0 counts, that the topic was going to come up at the dinner table. For me, just having that reinforced every time and having his knowledge in the house every single day helped me a lot."
Gonzales would have made his father proud on Wednesday, as he became the first Cardinals pitcher to finish three innings this spring. He didn't stop there. With a targeted pitch count of 50, Gonzales was able to also finish the fourth, throwing 51 pitches (38 strikes) in all.
The Cardinals' No. 2 ranked prospect closed his appearance with consecutive strikeouts. The only hit Atlanta mustered against him was Freddie Freeman's first-inning two-out double to the right-center-field wall.
The fastball command that eluded Gonzales in his spring debut was his strength this time. Gonzales estimated he threw 80 percent fastballs in his side session a few days ago, knowing that if he could locate his four- and two-seam fastballs effectively, he could get quicker outs and maximize the rest of his repertoire.
"The ability to [command the fastball] opens a lot of things for me," said Gonzales, who is vying for a job on the Major League pitching staff. "Longer outings are my main goal for the season."
Opponents are finding out, too, that Gonzales isn't the two-pitch pitcher that he was when he arrived in the Majors last summer. While his fastball and changeup are still the two most polished pitches, he's added a curveball, cutter and sinker to his mix. That curveball was especially effective against Atlanta's right-handed hitters on Wednesday.
"He's a kid that when you show him something, because he's a pitcher, because he doesn't just rely on strength, he picks up a feel for a pitch pretty quick," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's more mature than his age and experience. ... You can tell he has been heavily invested into on the baseball side."
For that, of course, Gonzales has his dad to thank.
So what might the two talk about this evening since there was no inefficiency to pick apart?
"The weather?" Gonzales said, chuckling. "I don't know."