CLEARWATER, Fla. - After five Grapefruit League starts for Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, the once-high expectations for him are continuing to diminish.
On pace for just one more outing before the Phillies head north, the Cuban righthander has yet to pitch into the fifth inning. Opponents are hitting .385 against him. He has surrendered 12 earned runs and a major-league-worst 25 hits over 141/3 innings. The five home runs he has allowed tie him for the most in baseball this spring.
Gonzalez, competing for the fifth spot in the Phillies starting rotation, threw about 75 pitches Wednesday in the team's 7-1 loss to the Houston Astros. His four innings marked his longest outing of the spring.
"Overall, his stuff is better than we've seen in the past. He's just struggling with his control and command of pitches," manager Ryne Sandberg said.
"He's having a hard time making a pitch when he needs to. He's pitched behind in the count, and then when he misses pitches, they're out over the plate, and they result in some balls to be hit. That's the biggest thing with him is his control."
Gonzalez gave up eight hits, four for extra bases. Touted shortstop prospect Carlos Correa, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, smacked a 2-2 curveball over the left-field fence. Two pitches later, Hank Conger knocked a home run to right field.
The Phillies will not need a fifth starter until April 12. Righthander Kevin Slowey, a non-roster invitee, is another option, though the Phillies have not stretched him out as they would a starter. Slowey, who gave up two earned runs in the sixth inning, is more likely competing for a job as a long reliever. Chad Billingsley, coming off consecutive seasons lost to elbow surgeries, isn't expected to be ready until mid-April to early May.
Domonic Brown (left Achilles tendinitis) hit in the batting cage Wednesday and plans to resume running Thursday. He has not played since last Thursday. . . . Cole Hamels makes his fifth and penultimate start of the spring Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin. . . . Comcast SportsNet announced that Mike Schmidt will be in the booth for Saturday home games in addition to Sunday home games. . . . The Phillies reassigned infielder Chase d'Arnaud and outfielder Darin Mastroianni to minor-league camp.
- Jake Kaplan