LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The nerves lasted for just a brief moment Tuesday before Phillies prospect Severino Gonzalez took the mound to face major-league hitters for the first time.
The 22-year-old told himself the outing against Atlanta was just another game as he started to warm up in the visiting bullpen at Champion Stadium. Gonzalez was not fazed. The righthander pitched three scoreless innings, allowed four hits, struck out two batters, and walked none in the 5-3 Phillies victory.
Gonzalez will likely start the season at triple-A Lehigh Valley. He said he hopes to make it to the majors as a September call-up.
"He had a great pace of game, a great tempo, threw a lot of strikes," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He mixed his pitches well. I really liked how he got the sign and just delivered the pitch."
Gonzalez compiled a 4.59 ERA in 27 starts last season at Reading. He struck out 115 batters and walked 34 in 1582/3 innings. His ERA more than doubled from the previous season. His down season came without his best pitch, a slicing cut fastball. The Phillies instructed him not to throw the pitch so he could focus on adding a change-up.
Gonzalez said he understood. He kept his cutter sharp last season by throwing it during practice sessions. The pitch is back this season, and he used it heavily Tuesday, along with his change-up and slider.
"I've been working on that pretty hard," Gonzalez said through an interpreter about his change-up. "It's coming along very, very well. But now I'm back to throwing both."
Rafael Chaves, the team's minor-league pitching coordinator, told Gonzalez about Tuesday's start on Sunday. He told Gonzalez to do the same things that have worked in the minors and everything would be fine.
"I was nervous when I first found out, but then I said to myself, 'It's the same kind of baseball. All I have to do is go out there, do my thing, and everything will be fine,' " Gonzalez said.
Aaron Harang threw 74 pitches over five innings of a minor-league game Tuesday in Clearwater, keeping him on pace to start the second game of the Phillies' season, on April 8.
Harang, 36, is in line to start Sunday in Clearwater against the Detroit Tigers and the April 3 exhibition against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. The veteran righthander had back discomfort earlier this spring. He allowed three runs on seven hits Tuesday. He struck out five and walked none. His final inning was spent pitching exclusively out of the stretch.
Working his way back from two elbow surgeries, righthander Chad Billingsley will pitch in his second minor-league game Thursday. . . . Mickey Morandini has been assigned to double-A Reading to fill in for hitting coach Frank Cacciatore, who is dealing with a family issue. . . . ..Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will pitch Wednesday against Houston at Bright House Field.