No start scheduled, but Gio available out of 'pen

Gonzalez embraces any role in 'opportunity of a lifetime' with Brewers

September 3rd, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- still didn't have a starting assignment as of Monday morning, but for the first time since the Brewers picked him up from the Nationals, he was available to pitch.

The veteran left-hander, who made his last Nationals start on Wednesday, then changed teams when the Brewers acquired him Friday while they were at Nationals Park, threw his first side session with Milwaukee pitching coach Derek Johnson on Saturday and was in Milwaukee's bullpen beginning Monday for the opener of a three-game series against the Cubs.

"My assignment? To be honest with you, not to sound like an idiot, but it's whenever they give me the ball," Gonzalez said. "They said they were going to sort it out, but I'm available today out of the 'pen."

And Gonzalez is cool with that uncertainty?

"Are you kidding me? This is an opportunity of a lifetime," he said. "For a team like this, any way we can win a ballgame and get to where we've got to go is key. Playing this game, being around guys who want to play, that just gives me all the energy in the world to go out there and compete.

"Especially with the [lousy] season I have going on with me, I just want to do something to be in a positive note. Kind of be a little more upbeat and do whatever I can for these guys."

Brewers manager Craig Counsell reiterated that "he's going to start games for us," though he hasn't made public his rotation plans beyond , and through Wednesday against the Cubs.

The Brewers are off Thursday before hosting the Giants in a three-game series at Miller Park, then head to Wrigley Field for three more games against the Cubs from Sept. 10-12.

"I don't want to come in and disrupt or dismantle their game plan," Gonzalez said. "I'm not here to give headaches, I'm here to take away the headaches. I'm going to pitch when they need me."

Gonzalez was candid about his struggles this season with the Nationals, for whom he posted a 3.72 ERA in 19 starts before the All-Star break but has struggled since. He was 1-5 with a 6.55 ERA in his final eight Nationals starts, and surrendered at least six earned runs in two of his final three starts.

Building a relationship with Johnson, the Brewers' highly regarded pitching coach, will be key. Gonzalez said Saturday's session was a good first step.

"What I liked was that everything was positive," he said. "Positive information. … The game plan is that whenever the ball is in my hand I've got to pitch at the highest level."

Gonzalez laughed about the awkward start to his first game as a Brewer. He had no idea the Nationals were planning to air a video tribute to his seven years in Washington before Saturday's game, so when the video ended and the fans stood and cheered for Gonzalez to emerge from the visitors' dugout, he was nowhere to be found.

"I was at my locker eating cookies. Story of my season," Gonzalez joked. "I missed the moment."