Gio glad to mix in pitches, make a play covering first

Gio glad to mix in pitches, make a play covering first

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Allowing three hits and one earned run while striking out four batters in 4 2/3 innings against the Astros on Sunday certainly sat well with Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, but there was another aspect to his game that had him just as encouraged.

"I mixed in all my pitches, got my changeup in counts I wanted to throw it [and] I got over [to cover first], which is something I wanted to work on this spring," he said.

In the fourth inning, first baseman Brock Peterson made a diving stop of a Robbie Grossman hard-hit grounder, and rose to his feet to flip in time to Gonzalez covering first base for an out on a close play.

"You joke about it, but on a serious note, that was something I really wanted to work on for a while," Gonzalez said. "It got me out of that inning. I could have been out there with another runner on base and pitching out of the stretch and not feeling comfortable. It was good to see those guys playing great defense. Brock made the play and we got over and got the out."

Gonzalez retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced and wound up throwing 40 of his 68 pitches for strikes while tossing a large number of changeups.

"It's a feel pitch," Gonzalez said. "[Catcher] Sandy [Leon] calling it over and over, and calling it in the counts I wanted it in, that just builds confidence. That's what I wanted to do."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.