CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez made his fifth relief appearance for Class A Advanced Clearwater on Sunday, pitching out of the bullpen on back-to-back days for the first time since joining the Phillies.
Gonzalez gave up a single, struck out his next batter, then snared a comebacker and threw to first base to complete the double play and end a 14-pitch sixth inning against the Brevard County Manatees.
It's been a frustrating year for the Cuban pitcher, who signed a three-year, $12 million deal last summer. Gonzalez dealt with right shoulder tendinitis in Spring Training, built up enough arm strength to finally begin a Minor League rehab assignment for Clearwater on May 15, but made only three starts before heading back to extended spring camp.
Gonzalez was believed to be suffering from a dead arm, not a more serious injury, and he has bounced back well as a reliever. Gonzalez restarted his rehab assignment with the Threshers on June 20 and has posted a 1.50 ERA with eight strikeouts, no walks and six hits allowed in six innings since then.
Threshers manager Nelson Prada credited Phillies pitching coordinator Carlos Arroyo for pointing out that Gonzalez wasn't right the first time he watched him as a starter last month. Gonzalez gave up 10 runs (seven earned) on 14 hits and nine walks while only striking out three in 9 1/3 innings, with his fastball clocking in around 86-89 mph during those three starts.
Now, Prada has a rehab schedule for Gonzalez posted on the wall behind his desk. He doesn't know whether the Phillies intend to keep using the right-hander out of the bullpen, but he is encouraged by what he has seen from Gonzalez over the past few days. Gonzalez's fastball peaked around 95-96 mph Saturday.
"His arm is back. Strength is back. That's what we were waiting for, to see his strength back. He competes," Prada said, noting that Gonzalez has done particularly well with runners on base. "That is when he really has been throwing harder. He takes it up a notch when he got [into] that situation. That's good to see him competing."
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. Michael Radano is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less