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Gio pleased with progress after second start

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JUPITER, Fla. -- In his penultimate outing before leaving the Nationals for the World Baseball Classic, Gio Gonzalez was pleased with his fastball command against the Cardinals, but he said his offspeed stuff still needs fine-tuning.

Gonzalez faced the Cardinals for the first time since Game 5 of the National League Division Series in Washington last fall, when he gave up three earned runs on five hits and four walks while striking out four in five innings of a game the Nationals lost in the ninth, 9-7.

"It's good to see some familiar faces," Gonzalez said. "These guys, they're all nice guys off the field. They're great guys on the field, same thing. They're competitors, just like we are. I'm pretty sure they were thinking the same way, just go out there and try and attack the strike zone and swing the bat. Same thing we're trying to do. It's Spring Training. There's no rivalry yet."

Gonzalez gave up runs in the first and third innings on Saturday, scattering five hits and one walk over three frames. He threw 52 pitches, 31 for strikes and did not record a strikeout. It was only the second time since Gonzalez reached the big leagues in 2008 -- including Spring Training and the postseason -- that Gonzalez made an appearance and did not record a strikeout. The other outing was Sept. 23, 2008, a one-inning relief appearance against the Rangers.

"He really didn't have a good feel for the ball because it was a little chilly," manager Davey Johnson said. "All the balls felt a little slick to him, so he didn't mix in hardly any breaking balls until I think the last hitter. But I thought he threw the ball well. That's a good-hitting ballclub, so he got his work in."

While Team USA is gathering for the opening round of the Classic this week, Gonzalez will make one more start with the Nationals -- March 7 vs. Houston -- before heading to Miami, should the Americans advance from the first round of pool play. He's on the USA roster, but wasn't slated to make a start until Round 2.

"Just again, try to attack the strike zone, just hopefully adjust to this weather out here," Gonzalez said of his approach for his third start. "It's kind of windy out there. But other than that, just work on little things, making adjustments, trying to find my arm slot, staying back picking up the target. Regular things that we work on in the bullpen and try to bring it into the game."

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