Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 14, 2014

Gonzalez' simple approach to pitching is paying off for Princeton

PRINCETON — Jose Gonzalez, or Gonzo as he is called by many members of the Princeton Rays, believes in keeping baseball simple and fun, utilizing a player’s strengths to overwhelm the opponent.

Gonzalez is in his first season as the Rays pitching coach and so far the Princeton hurlers have had a good season on the mound.

Princeton pitchers this season worked 215 2/3 innings going into Monday night’s game against Bluefield. The staff ERA is 3.00, second in the Appalachian League.

The 72 earned runs allowed are second best in the league and the 50 walks are a league low. The 200 strikeouts trail only Elizabethton and Pulaski and tie Greeneville.

Individually Jose Alonzo, Steve Ascher and Tomas Michelson are among the league leaders in fewest walks per nine inning pitched, each allowing one. Roel Ramirez is second in the Appy League with a 0.47 ERA and Alonzo is fourth in strikeouts with 24.

“They’ve been pitching great,” Gonzalez said. “You see the stats, that’s one of the reasons we’re doing so well now. We have 200-some innings and only 50 walks. That’s one of the reasons. When you’re pitching like that and putting the ball in play, something good is going to happen and it’s happening right now.”

It was said in the movie “Bull Durham,” “Baseball is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.” Gonzalez certainly buys into that philosophy and hopes to instill it in the young pitchers in the Tampa Bay organization.

“We must pitch to contact. Work quick, pitch to contact and don’t let the hitter get comfortable. Be fast paced, keep the tempo going. That’s what we want,” Gonzalez said.

“We have to be aggressive with the fastball. That’s one of the things we have here, even counts, 1-1, 2-2 and if you’re behind in the count, use the fastball. That’s the best pitch in baseball. No, the best pitch in baseball is a strike.”

Gonzalez continued his coaching philosophy, “Strike one, you can do everything. You can do whatever you want. The numbers don’t lie. When you pitch ahead in the count the hitting average is low. When you pitch behind in the count it’s completely different.

“So that’s one of the reasons we’re successful right now, pitching ahead in the count.”

Gonzo is a native of the baseball rich country of the Dominican Republic. This is his fourth year in the Tampa Bay organization, the previous three he spent in the Dominican Summer League.

Prior to joining the Rays, he was with the Boston Red Sox organization for 14 years, seven as a player and seven as a coach.

He talked about the game in his homeland.

“They turn out great baseball players because that’s what we’ve got. We only play baseball,” Gonzalez said. “That’s why there are a lot of ballplayers, and great ballplayers coming from that country.”

Knowing that he has an instrumental role in shaping the future pitchers in the Tampa Bay organization, Gonzalez talked about how he “handles” the pitchers under his tutelage.

“What I have been doing is letting them pitch and enjoy the game,” Gonzalez said. “I want them to work quick, throw strikes, do those things. They are the same things the pitchers in the big leagues do.”

As for his home for the summer months, Princeton, Gonzalez said, “It’s great. To me it’s great, especially playing baseball. I like it.”

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com; Twitter @bdtredd

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