Marco Elias Gonzales
Height: 6'1" Weight: 195
Bats/Throws: Left / Left
Born: 02/16/1992 in Fort Collins, Colorado
Offseason home: Seattle, Washington
College: Gonzaga University
Family: Wife Monica
Acquired: In trade from the St. Louis Cardinals, for Tyler O'Neill (07/21/2017)
MLB Debut: 06/25/2014
Free Agent after: 2025 season
Twitter handle: @MarcoGonzales_
It was a tough beginning to the ’21 campaign for the Mariner ace, as he had back-to-back poor outings to put him in a deep ERA hole and cause a segment of Mariner Fandom (not us, of course) to question his worth. But in starts three and four he's been the Marco of old, which of course includes pitching a gem of a game and getting a loss for it because his team couldn't score for him. Against the juggernaut Los Angeles Dodgers he allowed just two hits—both unfortunately in the same inning, accounting for the lone Dodger run—over seven frames in a master class of mound work and lost 1-0. Even if Marco is on his game, he needs help from the offense. This is the American League and he's not allowed to hit for himself, so someone else has got to push some runs across for him and in the early going that's been a challenge. Still, Marco has confidence in his guys and knows it's early yet. Said Gonzales, "I think we are going to be the team that people look up halfway through the year and say, ‘Where did they come from?’ And we are prepared to make a statement in this division."
One thing Gonzales doesn't like is the six-man rotation. He wants to be out there every fifth day and have as many chances to win games as he can. "I think it is fair to say our best guys don’t need to be pitching just once a week," Gonzales said. "We need to be out there more often." Still, he's not lobbying against the six-man routine just yet. "I understand why we are doing it. My plan is to take it and run with it. The extra recovery day, I’m going to use that and just go as deep into games as I can."
"Very boring." That's how Marco was described by former Mariners team president Kevin Mather during his de facto resignation speech in February, and though Mather followed up by saying Seattle's ace southpaw was also among the best lefties in the league, the comment revealed Mather to be a baseball moron. Because if you know pitching, Marco is anything but boring to watch. There's no one more prepared for a start nor anyone more competitive on the mound, and because he doesn't rely on fireballing stuff that breaks the radar gun, each at-bat and each pitch is an intellectual exercise. What kind of batter is up? Is he hot or slumping? Who's the home-plate umpire? Does the curveball feel good and have a good snap today? Just a few of the questions that factor into how Marco approaches his game from start to start, and for the fan in the stands (or watching on TV) following along with these choices make watching Marco Gonzales pitch among the most interesting things baseball can offer. And he has a sense of humor, as evidenced by his new Twitter profile:
Plus, he's just really good. Marco could have been a 20-game winner in 2019 if not for bad luck in the run support department—lost six games in which he posted a quality start (6+ innings and no more than 3 earned runs allowed), including a 1-0 game and two 2-1 contests, on his way to a 16-13 record—and in last year's mini-campaign he went 7-2 (11 starts) and placed eighth in the league in ERA with a career-best 3.10 mark. He was also one of just four qualifying AL pitchers to post a WHIP of less than 1.000 and led the AL in K:BB ratio thanks to walking a total of seven—that's right, seven—batters over his 692⁄3 innings. Of course, that was 2020, and barring injury Marco figures to get 25+ starts (27 if he doesn't miss any turns) rather than just 11 this time around, so a single-digit walk total isn't likely to happen again, but still, that translates to a full-season with less than 20. That's been done before, but not often (most recently by Phil Hughes, 32 & 25 starts in 2014 & 2015, and Cliff Lee, 28 starts in 2010).
With the Mariners using a six-man rotation this year, Marco may not get a chance to once more reach the goal of 200 innings, a feat he achieved in 2019, but he does have goals. "I want [to improve] my consistency between starts," he said, and have better "command and conviction" with his pitches. The curve in particular has been a project for him in spring training. "I've been feeling really confident with it," he said. "I'm going to be able to lean on it a lot to both lefties and righties." He'd also like to increase the average number of innings he goes per game; for his career, Marco has averaged just under six innings per start, a figure he bettered slightly in 2020's short season, but he'd rather get that number up past seven. "I have five different weapons to get you out [and I want] to go deep into a game," he said. "Really, I’m trying to get an out with [no more] than two pitches." If he can get an average of 7.4, he could still hit that 200 inning mark with just 27 starts.