I suppose Gio Gonzalez' to-do-list for 2011 is not much different than any other hurler's: cut down on free passes, start each hitter with a strike, retire the lead-off batter in every inning, try to keep the ball away from your third baseman; you know, the usual.
Here's the cool part: as he enters his third full season in the majors, Gonzalez may be ready to make good on his goals and reach for the stars or, dare we say, All-Stars? Not so far-fetched if he's able to limit visits from his evil twin, Bad Gio, to the mound this year.
Giovany A. Gonzalez was born on September 19, 1985, the exact same date as this lovely lady. They chose slightly different career paths. My niece served as a nurse in the United States Army the last eight years- including a 14-month tour in Iraq, and continues in that role at the VA Hospital in Livermore. Gio's road is well-documented by comparison, which is kind of sad when you think about it.
But I digress.
A first round draft pick in 2004 (38th overall) by the Chicago White Sox, Gonzalez spent his first years in professional baseball bouncing between the Windy City and the City of Brotherly Love. He was traded to Philadelphia in 2005, and then was shipped back to Chicago just one year later.
On January 3, 2008, the A's acquired Gonzalez in a trade involving Nick Swisher that also brought Ryan Sweeney and Fautino de los Santos to the Bay Area. He made his big-league debut on August 6 that year, losing a 5-1 decision to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Gio's 2009 season was very much Jekyll-and-Hyde, and who can forget this line on July 20 - 2.2 IP, 10H, 11ER - in a game the A's eventually won?
Last year was Gio's coming-out party. Barely earning the fifth spot in the rotation, Gonzalez would pace the A's with 33 starts and log a team-high 200.2 innings in 2010, which ultimately led to a debate on whether we put too many miles on our Gio.
In addition to games started, Gonzalez also had top-10 placement in batting average against (tenth), ERA (eighth), and wins (tenth).
So what's next for Gio Gonzalez? He's improved on his BB/9 numbers each season and has made it a priority to continue on that path. In six spring sessions, he struck out 29 batters, while walking 11 in 27-plus innings. Gio also spoke of keeping up with his staffmates:
The 25-year-old southpaw spent the winter training harder and preparing the way he knew his teammates were doing.
"These guys always come ready when the season starts," he said, "and I figured, why not join them?"
If Gio is on his game today, we just might see the A's join the win column for the first time in 2011.
What does AN see from Gio this year?