The Phillies are being tight-lipped about which players they will bring up from the minors when rosters expand on Monday, but it sounds likely that pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will get a call.
The Phillies signed the Cuban defector to a three-year, $12 million contract a year ago. At the time, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he hoped Gonzalez would join Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee atop the team’s starting rotation this season.
That didn’t happen. Gonzalez had shoulder issues throughout the offseason and into the spring. He finally got healthy and hit his stride as a reliever for Double A Reading in July. He moved to Triple A Lehigh Valley early this month and has pitched well, recording a 1.93 ERA in 10 games. He has shown a mid-90s fastball.
“Hopefully we’ll have a chance to look at him in September,” manager Ryne Sandberg said.
Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development, watched Gonzalez pitch two perfect innings with two strikeouts for Lehigh Valley on Monday night. Jordan was impressed.
“I saw him when he first got going in spring training, and, you know, it just wasn’t working good,” Jordan said. “It was hard to find a lot that you liked.
“But I saw him [Monday night] at Lehigh Valley, and he was a major-league pitcher. He had a good fastball, drove the ball down in the zone, followed the glove. It’s the best I’ve seen him throw. It was very exciting. And it was against a very good hitting Triple-A (Syracuse) club. For two innings he overmatched them, right through the good part of the lineup. Not only did he overpower them with his stuff, but he was making pitches. His progress has been very good.”
It’s almost imperative that the Phillies get a look at Gonzalez in September. He turns 28 next month and competed internationally and professionally before defecting, so maturity should not be an issue. Also, the Phillies are paying Gonzalez like a big-leaguer. They need to get a look at what they have and Gonzalez needs to test himself.
Based on what Jordan said, Gonzalez is ready for the test.
“I’ll tell you the thing this guy will do -- and I’ve seen him do it two or three times this summer,” Jordan said. “He’ll get to a good hitter in the lineup, and when he knows it’s the best hitter in the lineup, he’s got another gear. I’ve seen it two or three times. I saw it [Monday] night. I saw it in the Florida State League and I’ve seen it in Double-A. So it’ll be interesting as we watch this guy in the next year or two. Obviously a major-league lineup gives you more opportunities to do that. But I’ve seen it. It’s been impressive. He’ll pick out the guy in the lineup who’s supposed to be the best guy and he’ll go out and get him. It’ll be interesting to see.”
Amaro has not ruled out Gonzalez returning to a starter’s role down the road, but right now the Phillies are happy he’s found health and success in any role.