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Dodgers are keeping Gonsolin around

Tony Gonsolin is no longer a one night stand for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 2012 Vacaville High School graduate has moved beyond flirting with the Dodgers by pitching in one game and then being sent away the next day. The relationship must be getting serious because his latest stay is at  five weeks … and counting.

The Dodgers swept aside the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League wild-card playoffs and are facing the San Diego Padres in the divisional round. The best-of-five series began Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas with the Dodgers winning 5-1.

(Courtesy photo/Oklahoma City Dodgers)
Tony Gonsolin is 2-2 in 2020 with a 2.31 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings.

For the sake of neutrality, the NL divisional playoffs will be in American League parks. The two AL series are in NL cities The Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins are in Houston as the Astros battle the Oakland A’s at Dodger Stadium. The Tampa Rays and New York Yankees are in San Diego with the Padres in Texas. Nothing makes much sense in this bizarre season of cardboard fans and nasal swabs.

The yo-yo manner in which the Dodgers have treated Gonsolin also makes little sense, although he would rather go back and forth instead of not going at all,. The right-hander made his major-league debut on June 26, 2019 in Arizona and returned to Triple-A Oklahoma City on June 27. His second start was July 30. He was sent packing a day later.

Gonsolin returned Aug. 2 and earned his first major-league victory Aug. 5 by allowing two hits in six shutout innings against the St. Louis Cardinals. He then packed his bags and returned to Oklahoma City on Aug. 6. The Dodgers recalled Gonsolin on Aug. 18 and retained him for the final six weeks of regular season.

This season brought more of the same. Gonsolin joined the Dodgers on July 31 to start in Arizona and left the next day for the team’s alternate training site at USC. He returned Aug. 12 and made two starts before again being sent away Aug. 19. When the Dodgers recalled him for good on Aug. 30, he could only assume he was staying because no one told him otherwise. So much for any pomp and circumstance of making it to the big leagues.

“They really don’t tell you anything,” said Gonsolin, who won two of his five starts in September to even his record at 2-2. The 26-year-old finished the regular season with a 2.31 ERA and struck out 46 in 46 2/3 innings.

Not only did Gonsolin impress the Dodgers in 2019 with his pitching. He also batted .308 with one of his four hits coming against former Vallejo High star CC Sabathia in the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Aug. 24. Gonsolin singled in the third inning and scored on a home run by Justin Turner. 

That proved to the difference because Gonsolin and three relievers combined to allow just five hits. Gonsolin yielded two hits and one run when Aaron Judge blasted a ball well beyond the center-field fence. 

With the NL adding the designated hitter this season, Gonsolin can leaves his bats in the clubhouse. He does not miss batting in games as much as taking batting practice with the other pitchers. Batting practice often turned into a home run derby with pitchers trying to prove they can go deep.

“It’s always fun watching the balls getting launched,” said Gonsolin, who hit seven homers of 11 homers at Saint Mary’s College as a senior. He has yet to go deep since being a ninth-round draft pick in 2016. 

“Getting in the (batter’s) box is fun,” Gonsolin said, “In this abbreviated season, it’s probably better to have a guy up there that can put together a good at-bat. We’re facing some pretty tough pitchers in the playoffs.”

Whether the Padres will face Gonsolin in the NLDS remains to be determined. Five games in five days leave little chance of Walker Buehler (Game 1 starter) and Clayton Kershaw (Game 2) making two starts in the series. Gonsolin’s availability to start might come down to whether he is needed out of the bullpen.

Gonsolin had a solid start against the Padres on Aug. 12, surrendering three hits in 4 2/3 shutout innings and striking out eight. He needed to finish the the fifth inning to be eligible for a win, which he would have earned after the Dodgers scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth to pull ahead in a 6-0 victory.

The Dodgers loosened Gonsolin’s leash on Sept. 26  after the Los Angeles Angels rallied for four runs in the third inning to erase a 3-0 deficit. Gonsolin walked to the mound in the fourth because no one told him not to. He blanked the Angels in the next three innings as the Dodgers came back to pull out  a 7-6 victory.

Gonsolin knows nothing of the Dodgers’ pitching plans for the NLDS other than “Buehler’s going in Game 1.” All he can do at this point is hope to remain with the Dodgers until the last out of their season. The Dodgers can alter their 28-player roster before the NL Championship Series and the World Series.

They did just that for the NLDS by dropping catcher Keibert Ruiz and adding pitcher Dylan Floro. They also swapped position players with backup first baseman Edwin Rios injured by adding infielder Gavin Lux. After all of his one night stands, Gonsolin has learned not to count his chickens or any other birds.

“It’s out of my control. All that stuff is way over my head,” Gonsolin said. “It could be dictated by matchups. All I know is when I go out there, I am going to do the best I can do.”