A representative from Team USA told reporters in an email on Saturday that Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez has accepted an invite to pitch for the team in March’s World Baseball Classic.
The 21-game winner is the only representative of the Nationals on Team USA, and Roger Bernadina will represent the Netherlands in the outfield. Bryce Harper recently turned down an invitation to play along side Gonzalez on the American team, and Danny Espinosa’s status on Team Mexico is currently up in the air due to his torn labrum. Espinosa had originally accepted an offer to join the team, but the injury puts his status in question.
Though some Nationals fans may be frustrated due to Gonzalez putting himself at risk of injury pitching an additional month of hard innings, they also need to need to step back and look at the big picture. In doing so, they’ll realize it’s not so bad.
Having Gonzalez pitching for the USA instead of the Nationals in training camp will allow the coaching staff to give some other pitchers more time. With Gonzalez in the midst of being investigated due to being linked to the steroid-distributing clinic Biogenisis, there’s still a chance that he could face a 50-game suspension if found guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs. So by pitching for the USA, the Nationals can effectively look for his potential replacement for that first third of the season. Christian Garcia, Zach Duke, and possibly minor leaguers Taylor Jordan and Nathan Karns could all see some significant innings in February and March.
On top of that, it benefits Gonzalez as well, as he’ll be far more prepared for the talent he’ll face in April because of the intensity of the tournament. Regardless of the talent he’ll face, the mental part of the game is something you can never simulate. Having Gonzalez take the mound knowing that every pitch counts for a whole month prior to his first start on the Nationals will make him more game-ready than any pitcher on the rotation.
What do you think? Do you like Gonzalez’s decision to pitch in the World Baseball Classic? Do you think Harper should have also accepted his invite? How about Bernadina and Espinosa? Comment below!