Greg Gonzalez finally has an ERA. The right-handed reliever has been rolling for Padres High-A affiliate Lake Elsinore. Through six appearances with the Storm this season, he has posted a 1.29 ERA – the product of recently surrendering a solo bomb at Rancho Cucamonga.
It’s an impressive rebound, considering Gonzalez started the year with one of the roughest outings of his life. On April 16, Gonzalez shot to the top of the minor league ladder for a spot start at Triple-A Tucson. Not only was it the first start of Gonzalez’s pro career. It was the first time the 23-year old had ever pitched above the short-season level.
Still, Gonzalez embarked on his first full season of pro ball by making his Triple-A debut, lasting just 2 2/3 innings while surrendering six runs on eight hits. However, the outing served the Padres’ farm system well. The reason for the impromptu start was to fill Casey Kelly’s spot in the rotation. One of the Padres’ top prospects, Kelly was placed on the disabled list after his second appearance of the year. And, instead of disrupting their Double-A rotation, the Padres plucked Gonzalez from extended minor league spring training.
Since his inauspicious Triple-A outing, Gonzalez has been nearly untouchable, rolling through his first four outings at Lake Elsinore without yielding a run, until finally getting touched May 4 at Rancho Cucamonga when Quakes designated hitter Michael Pericht took him yard with a solo home run.
In his next outing, though, Gonzalez returned to form. Tuesday against High Desert he fired a perfect eighth inning by striking out the side. Gonzalez has notched 11 strikeouts in seven innings and has yet to issue a walk this season.
Dominance has long been Gonzalez’s calling card. He emerged as an ace at Skyline College, winning 20 games in his JUCO career from 2007-09 while surpassing the 300-strikeout plateau. As a junior transfer at Fresno State in 2010, he worked his way into the starting rotation midseason and emerged as a prolific Division-I ace, posting a 19-3 career record en route to being honored as the 2011 Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year.