While the Dodgers coached Tony Gonsoli in the minor league system, Connor McGuiness trained specifically for his right hand when faced with some struggles.
This had almost nothing to do with pitching mechanics. However, it was a symbol of Gonsoli’s unique development process in the mound.
“When he’s in a bad place or a little bad, [I would] give him the bat, ”McGuiness said, swinging like a pitcher.
This may have been unusual, but Gonsolin followed a simple scenario like a jar about evolution.
A native of Northern California was a two-way player in high school and college, and once imagined himself as a hitter for the first time. Until the Dodgers trained him in the ninth round in 2016, he didn’t just focus on pitching. He was a comfort to minors before he rotated and quickly rose to the big leagues.
This year has been one of the biggest surprises for the 28-year-old Dodgers and all of baseball.
After an injured and inefficient 2021 season, Gonsolin started 6-0 with a 1.59 ERA. Starting against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, he made at least six hits in four consecutive starts, the latter giving him a short lead in the National League ERA.
“The mechanics are very similar to previous years, he just goes after the boys and attacks them,” Gonsolin said. “I just have more confidence that my stuff will work.”
He helped stabilize the rotation waiting for Clayton Kershaw and Andrew Heaney to return from injuries, while Walker Buehler and Julio Urías rediscovering high form.
Manager Dave Roberts said, “It’s confidence, it’s more than anything you can see.” “He’s waiting for the game to go deeper, he’s waiting for it to come out if there’s stress.”
Gonsolin has also made the biggest leap on the road to major leagues so far, putting together all the tools he has learned as a late-blooming prospect to consider himself an All-Star and play an increasingly important role in the Dodgers.
“We always knew Tony was incredibly talented,” said general manager Brandon Gomez. “He’s starting to step on the piece of the sequence.”
When Gomes first joined the Dodgers as a minor league pitching coordinator in the fall of 2016, it was one of the first prospects Gonsolin worked for.
“He was really interested in the characteristics of the pitch from the start,” Gomez said.
Gonsolin’s inexperience soon became apparent. During the training league that year, Gonsolin told Gomez that he had thrown a two-stitch sinker that he had modeled after Tim Hudson and hoped he could play at the bottom of the zone for balls.
Then Gomez watched his speech.
“He didn’t,” Gomez said, laughing. “He had a four-horse ride … it will probably play better in the upper part of the zone.”
It was a blessing.
Before long, Gomez and the Dodgers began to imagine opportunities for Gonsoli’s future. The team included him in the program to increase his arm strength and added weighted ball exercises to his routine to increase his speed. In his first full professional year in 2017, Gonsolin began to shoot at a speed of 100 miles per hour as a comfort in the high A’s.
The club’s confidence in him continued to grow.
The following spring, after being promoted to director of the cast, Gomez Gonsoli decided to take on the lead role. This meant regaining his speed and adding a splitter – a new pitch taught to him by former Dodgers pitcher and team coach Coel Peralta during spring training.
“He did it, and Joel really helped him with the grip, the different feelings, and the different workouts,” Gomes said.
Gomez soon added, “It was the best fragmentation change in the organization.”
Gonsolin began the 2018 season with a rotation with senior A Rancho Cucamonga, where McGuiness, now an assistant pitching coach in the Dodgers’ major league squad, was a shooting coach at the time.
McGuiness, who has always admired Gonsoli’s athleticism and easy delivery, didn’t want his right hand to be “too mechanical” or too busy with constant adjustments and adjustments.
So whenever Gonsolin calmed down, McGuiness put a bat in his hand. There was a way of madness.
Physically, the swings will re-synchronize Gonsolin’s upper and lower body movements, leading to a cleaner pitching delivery.
“I’d make him swing up the hill,” McGuiness said with a laugh. “She loves to hit, and it helps her line up in the right sequence.”
There was also a mental benefit, as each hack reminded Gonsolin to maintain the athleticism that helped him flourish in the first place.
“Most people in the league don’t have the weapons he makes,” McGuiness said. “And after he found that rhythm and tempo … he just set off.”
After impressive performances in the first two major league seasons of 2019 and 2020, Gonsolin fell behind last year.
He struggled with a shoulder injury that made his belongings inappropriate. He fought the team with 34 shots in 55 shots. The most annoying thing is that he rarely worked deep in games, averaging 3.23 ERAs, but less than four shots on average at each start.
“Last year, the upper and lower seasons,” Gonsolin said in the spring. “I feel better this year.”
Now, in his fifth season as a full-time pitcher, Gonsolin is getting closer to every trip – something that a future Hall of Fame won’t go unnoticed by his teammate.
Like others in the organization, Clayton Kershaw always recognized the potential of Gonsoli’s belongings, but also saw gaps in the attack plan, often avoiding pursuing the attackers and biting the zone instead.
This year, Gonsolin chose Kershaw’s brain in the shelter during the games, leading classes on how to be more efficient in conversations, how to steal vacations and access useful accounts, how to better manage workloads, and how to get back on multiple orders. .
“Some of them are instructive, of course, and I think Tony does a good job of reading,” Kershaw said.
Gonsolin, for example, may ask why he didn’t swing with a perfectly executed slide to cause a bat that was inclined.
“Well,” Kerhsaw would answer, “he took it automatically, so you didn’t have to throw it. You could throw the fast ball down the middle and go sliding, and that’s 0 and 2, you don’t work from behind.”
Gonsolin also found other ways to better attack attackers, such as increasing its use of curved wholesale as both an early counting weapon for strikes and a platform that could pick up odors.
“Tony honestly understands that one of his biggest obstacles is trying to be more efficient, and he’s doing it, he’s doing it on his own,” Kershaw said. “He can probably steal a few pitches here and there, and that will give him a shot here and there, and that will add up.”
For the rest of the season, Gonsolin’s whereabouts could have significant implications for the Dodgers.
So far, he has helped compensate for injuries and poor performance. If he continues to do so, he could be a more central figure in his plans as they move into the post-season period.
This is not a guarantee. Gonsolin is already five innings away from reaching a new career height and has not played for a full season since 2019.
According to Baseball Savant, while its key figures are good, the expected 2.60 ERA and 3.04 independent pitching stats for Baseball Reference suggest they can still return to mid-level as the season progresses.
Again, this was a confirmation of the first two months for a pitcher who once appeared on the edge of the circuit, who needed a long relief with the season, and even followed a unique path to reach specialties. he and the organization believed he always had it.
“He went through that,” McGuiness said. “And I think he, on the other hand, came out in a really, really good place.”
So good that McGuiness laughed when he was asked if Gonsoli was still waving his bat from time to time.
“Almost not much,” he said.
Lately, Gonsolin doesn’t need it.