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On short notice, Gonzalez dominates for O's

Right-hander doesn't change approach after being called on in Tillman's place

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez arrived at the Ed Smith Stadium complex Friday morning expecting to get his work pitching in a Minor League game. Instead, Gonzalez ended up getting the ball against a split Braves squad and went on to turn in the Orioles' most dominant outing of the spring.

Filling in for Opening Day starter Chris Tillman, who missed Friday's game with an illness, Gonzalez tossed six scoreless innings while facing just one more than the minimum. In doing so, he became the first Orioles starter to complete six innings this spring.

Gonzalez said he was notified shortly after arriving at the complex at 8:30 a.m. ET that he'd be taking the mound in the club's big league game instead of his scheduled Minor League start. Despite the last-minute change, Gonzalez said his approach remained the same.

"Same game plan," Gonzalez said. "You just got to go out there and make pitches no matter where you're at. I was planning on going down there [to the Minor League field], but it worked out pretty well."

Along with tossing six scoreless frames, Gonzalez racked up a spring-best five strikeouts. He has now tallied eight strikeouts over his last two outings after recording zero in his first two.

A big part of his success Friday came due to his ability to get ahead in counts and keep the Braves off-balance with a constant mix of pitches. Gonzalez on numerous occasions threw a first-pitch curveball over for a strike and spent the rest of the at-bat mixing in his fastball with more off-speed pitches.

"It's all about progressing and getting better and working on your weaknesses," Gonzalez said. "That's what I did today. I thought my offspeeds were great and I was happy about first-pitch strikes and trying to get guys out as soon as possible."

In working quickly against the Braves hitters, Gonzalez kept his pitch count low enough to earn a sixth inning. Though the original plan was to just get five from Gonzalez, the righty needed just 73 total pitches to complete six full frames.

"Gonzo was sharp," manager Buck Showalter said. "If you drew it up before the game, about where you wanted to get him, pitch count and everything, that was good."

As for Gonzalez, the game-day switch proved to be a welcomed treat with most likely just one more start remaining before the regular season.

"I definitely wasn't expecting it," Gonzalez said, "but I was happy I was out there and that I got to extend my innings. That's what I need right now. It was a good day."

Paul Casella is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.
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