Gonzalez: Bring on the pressure

Gonzalez: Bring on the pressure
January 25, 2012, 11:29 pm
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Gio Gonzalez has had more than a month to contemplate his trade from the Athletics to the Nationals, and he's had nearly two weeks to contemplate the five-year extension he was given from general manager Mike Rizzo before ever throwing a pitch for his new club.

Gonzalez knows there will be plenty of attention, and perhaps some pressure on him now. And he doesn't shy away from it.

"I know that Mike took a shot with me," the left-hander said today upon finally being introduced at Nationals Park. "And I don't want to let him down."

It was that competitive nature, coupled with a 31-21 record and 3.17 ERA over the last two seasons in Oakland, that convinced the Nationals not only to acquire Gonzalez in exchange for prospects Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone, A.J. Cole and Derek Norris but then to give him a 42 million extension.

"We were satisfied and convinced this is the type of person and player that we want on the mound for us and in the clubhouse," Rizzo said, adding: "He's going to be part of the furniture for a long time."

Gonzalez, 26, wouldn't have been eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season, but the Nationals didn't hesitate to buy out his arbitration years plus another season and add two 12 million options for 2017 and 2018.

In doing so, they ensured they'll trot out the trio of Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann for at least the next four seasons. The ability to share the stage with those other young aces played a big role in Gonzalez's willingness to commit long-term to the Nationals right now.

"I feel honored to be a part of it," he said. "I feel like the names that are up there ... I'm going to be with these guys for quite a while. They're all young, talented ballplayers."

A Miami native who was high school teammates with Nationals first baseman Chris Marrero, Gonzalez is excited to join the NL East (with nine guaranteed games per season against the Marlins in his hometown). He's equally excited to spend the next chunk of his career in the nation's capital.

"We sat down with family and we analyzed the whole thing," he said. "And when it came down to it, it was like: We're happy. This is it, where we want to be."

Gonzalez spoke glowingly about the Nationals organization and the city he'll now call home, regaling reporters with anecdotes from his tour last night of the Lincoln Memorial and his experience at the Capitals' game at Verizon Center.

"Yesterday it hit me that I was was home," he said, "when I was at the Capitals game and I got all the love in the world from the fans."