Gonzales' landing spot now out of his hands

Following a stellar spring, left-hander awaits club's decision

Gonzales' landing spot now out of his hands

JUPITER, Fla. -- With Sunday marking his final appearance of the Grapefruit League season, left-hander Marco Gonzales is now left to wait and see how the Cardinals' pitching plans come together and where he falls in that mix.

Even with Opening Night just a week away, manager Mike Matheny said the organization is still weighing the possibility of Gonzales filling any one of three roles -- a starter in the Major League rotation, a reliever in the Major League bullpen or a starter in the Triple-A rotation -- in April.

Results-wise, Gonzales could have hardly had a better month. He finishes spring having allowing just two earned runs over 17 1/3 innings. He also leaves camp a more polished pitcher, having further cultivated a two-seam fastball, cutter and curveball during his time in Florida. Over-reliant on his fastball and changeup a year ago, Gonzales now has the benefit of more weapons.

But where Gonzales begins the season won't solely be dictated by what he's done and the improvements he's made. How the Cardinals decide to use Carlos Martinez and where they see Gonzales' value over the duration of a full season will also factor in.

"I came like that into Spring Training, knowing that anything can happen," Gonzales said after Sunday's 4 2/3-inning start. "Obviously, I started in [high-A] Palm Beach [Fla.,] last year and ended up in the [Major League] bullpen in the playoffs. Really anything can happen, and I know there are always going to be changes for us. I'll be ready for whatever comes my way."

Gonzales, who is likely to start for the Cardinals in their Memphis exhibition game against the Triple-A club, didn't go out with his sharpest outing, but did finish strong. He threw 62 pitches in the first three innings while struggling to gather fastball command.

A tight strike zone on the third-base side of the plate and some directional issues as he came toward home exacerbated the early troubles. Catcher Yadier Molina made multiple early trips to the mound to try and help Gonzales get back in sync. Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist also went out.

The reinforcement helped, and Gonzales ended his outing by retiring six straight.

"Once he did get that going, all of a sudden the swings on the changeup looked different," Matheny said. "The swings on the sinker looked different. But he's got to be able to get the fastball in the zone earlier in the count."

Gonzales flashed his improved curveball several times in the game and added that he has "made serious strides" with his two-seam fastball over his five spring appearances.

"For me, it was about building confidence with those pitches, those new ones," Gonzales said. "I have nothing but confidence in those pitches and building on what I already have, it will be interesting to see how it goes."

Of interest first, though, is where he goes.

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.