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Mike Misses the Spotlight

His line so far this year has not been that impressive: 7 games, 6.1 innings pitched, 8 hits, 6 walks, and only 4 strikeouts. Mike Gonzalez was supposed to be our left-handed setup man slash closer in waiting, but he's needed more bailouts from other relievers early in the season that he's been able to deliver himself. He seems to be offering up several excuses, one of them being a lack of fire in his belly.

I think many people thought this might be an issue for Mike. I was one of those who thought that the intensity of a ninth inning save situation might be hard to recreate in the seventh or eighth innings. Here is a question I asked of Mike Gonzalez in an interview this spring and his answer:

Q: Going from being a closer in Pittsburgh to a setup man here, how do you handle the roles differently?

A: You know what, it's really not that big a difference, man. I've been doing the same thing as I was doing in the ninth, man. It's all the same to me; I'm aggressive, I go out there and try to get the three outs - that's the way it's always been. It's not going to be a problem whatsoever, man. I've obviously setup and been successful, I've closed and been successful. So, I'm just looking forward to winning ballgames now.

He has obviously found the role to be more difficult than he had originally thought - or at least more than he had originally admitted, and indeed his recent comments suggest that:

"I didn't think it was going to be that big a change going from being a closer to pitching the seventh or eighth inning, but it is," said the left-hander...

"The intensity level is not there, so you have to create it yourself. But I'm making the adjustment."

Couple this with his recent flirtation with injury and Gonzalez could be searching for some possible excuses for his underperformance. Another possibility is that the weather is affecting Gonzo. Just as I suggested that the weather could be a factor for many of our hitters underperformance here early in the season, it appears that Gonzalez it using that as his backup excuse:

"I'm not trying to make excuses," Gonzalez said, "but to go from throwing every couple of days in warm weather in Florida [during spring training] to throwing every day in the cold weather ... in Philly, you couldn't feel the ball."

Yes, even though he said he's not trying to make excuses, he is. But in fairness to him and others, the transition this year from the temperate spring training to the colder than normal regular season has probably taken its toll on many players.

Every Braves fan needs to hope that Gonzalez can work out his issues with being just a setup man verses THE man in the ninth, as well as his issues with the cold weather and his elbow. Whoa, suddenly that's seems like a lot to overcome.

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