An injury interrupts Tony Gonsolin’s pursuit of unfinished business
The injury looked so benign at the moment that Tony Gonsolin’s teammates initially giggled at his one wrong step.
After a round of fielding drills for Dodgers pitcher on a Camelback Ranch backfield earlier this month, Gonsolin was slowly trotting off the mound when his left foot suddenly gave out on the infield grass, twisting his ankle and throwing him off balance.
First, a group of other pitchers standing nearby found humor in the sight and smashed their cat-loving teammate for not landing on his feet.
Within minutes, however, the mood turned more serious.
Gonsolin grabbed his ankle with obvious pain. He cautiously walked to the dugout to be checked by a trainer. He then jumped into a golf cart and was driven away.
As it turned out, the pitcher had suffered a sprained ankle and it could be a while before he shows up in a game again.
Nearly two weeks after the injury, manager Dave Roberts confirmed on Friday that Gonsolin will not be well in time for Opening Day.
“To say he’s going to start the season,” Roberts said, “that’s not going to happen.”
An exact timeline for Gonsolin’s return is unclear. Unless his recovery accelerates – which seems unlikely after Roberts warned several times it will be a “slow” process – the pitcher could be in danger of missing several starts early in the season.
“Long term, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem,” Roberts said. “But that speaks to how we’re going to handle this thing on the front end.”
Think of it as one of nine lives burned for the so-called “Catman” — a mad, ill-timed, literal misstep that won’t derail his 2023 season but will delay his pursuit of what Roberts called “unfinished business.” . from last year.
While Gonsolin had a regular career in 2022 — going 16-1 with a 2.14 ERA to earn his first All-Star selection — he was one of many Dodgers to fail to perform in their abrupt postseason elimination.
After missing most of September with a forearm injury, Gonsolin flopped in his lone game against the San Diego Padres, scoring just four outs in Game 3 that the Dodgers hoped would last four innings.
While Gonsolin gave up just one run, his early elimination helped the team move behind the eight for the remainder of that game, which ended in defeat, and the streak that ended in a stunning four-game loss a night later .
The frustration continued into the start of Gonsolin’s offseason, becoming the latest in a pattern of playoff disappointments for the four-year veteran.
“It sucks,” he said when asked about his conclusion of the year following his first and only start in the Cactus League this spring on March 3. “I feel like I did it in 2021 and 22 in a row. ”
Gonsolin turned the setbacks into motivation while formulating his personal goals for 2023.
“Walk from wall to wall,” Gonsolin explained. “Go from beginning to end.”
The start was now complicated.
While Gonsolin has turned down several requests from reporters to discuss his injury over the past week, Roberts said the 28-year-old’s dissatisfaction was clear.
“They work all offseason to get to a certain point to get into camp and then take that setback early on, yeah, he’s frustrated,” Roberts said.
When asked where the randomness of Gonsolin’s ankle roll ranks among injuries he’s seen in his career, Roberts acknowledged it was “up there.”
“It was something very, obviously, benign,” Roberts said. “A guy like Tony, letting something like that happen, being costly to that point, is very crazy.”
The challenge for Gonsolin and the Dodgers now is to ensure the pitcher remains primed for a strong return, eventually retiring until 2023 when he is expected to once again serve as the anchor of the team’s starting rotation.
“Tony talked about finishing the race or ending the season strong, that’s still in play,” Roberts said. “But I think it’s very important to make sure we tick that off and don’t let it linger.”
Trying to find a different kind of balance before Gonsolin’s injury, Dodgers pitching coaches focused on day-to-day life while looking for improvements overall from last season.
“It’s about keeping an eye on everything,” said assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness. “I think it’s frustrating for all of us and obviously frustrating for him that he had the year he had and then had a little hiccup at the end. So I know it’s the priority. … But we just don’t want him to think too much about the future. If he just takes it day by day, we know he’s going to be outstanding for us.”
After pitching more than two scoreless innings on his Cactus League debut earlier in the month, Gonsolin felt he was making such strides.
“I had a better understanding of what I was preparing for,” he said. “Just kind of getting the routine, figuring out the daily routine and building my body to withstand the innings strain.”
Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin warms up before the first inning of a spring training game against the Angels March 3 in Tempe, Ariz.
(Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)
While that work is on hold, Gonsolin’s bigger goals for this season – to steadily improve over the course of an entire season and be his best when it comes down to the track – remain intact.
It’s an important step in his burgeoning career.
He will hope things go smoother than what left him with the sore ankle that will delay the start of his season.
“As long as we stay on the same page with him, he should be ready,” McGuiness said. “He’s an absolute beast. He’ll be back out there soon.”