MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Gio fine with role, eager for game action

Nationals' fifth starter pleased with progress during spring

Gio fine with role, eager for game action

ATLANTA -- Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez said he is not upset that he is starting the 2016 season as the fifth starter. He's content as long as he gets the ball when it's his turn.

Gonzalez will start his first game Monday against the Braves at Nationals Park. It will come after Max Scherzer makes his second start of the season. In the meantime, Gonzalez will be available out of the bullpen.

"Everyone in this rotation is an ace pitcher and is capable of being a No. 1 in any rotation," Gonzalez said. "I feel like [the Nationals] had a plan with the whole situation and I understood it immediately."

Gonzalez last pitched on March 27. Since then, he has made his share of bullpen sessions and is eager to get back on the mound.

"I just want to get the opportunity to pitch," he said. "It's been awhile since I've seen a mound. As far as bullpens, I actually want to throw live in a game."

After walking 12 batters in his first 13 innings during Spring Training, Gonzalez said he was able to get his mechanics in order on March 27 against Atlanta. What made Gonzalez satisfied with the outing was that he didn't walk any batters during his six innings on the mound.

It also helped that Gonzalez received words of wisdom from pitching coach Mike Maddux. In the past, Gonzalez would pick up signs from the catcher and then rush to make pitches. All he needed to do was slow the game down.

On Wednesday, Gonzalez sounded like a guy who is going to have his best year to date.

"Before, it was see the sign and go," he said. "Now, I want to pitch with a purpose. I'm not just being a thrower any more. I want to be a guy hitting his spots and going deep into the game. It was nice of me going six innings. For me to see that, it shows I still have that in the tank."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.