The injury seemed so innocuous at the time, Tony Gonsolin’s teammates were initially laughing at his one misstep.
After a round of fielding drills for Dodgers pitchers on a backfield at Camelback Ranch earlier this month, Gonsolin was slowly walking away from the mound when his left foot suddenly went over the infield grass, twisting his ankle and He lost his balance.
At first, a group of fellow pitchers standing nearby found humor in the sight, berating their cat-loving teammate for failing to land on their feet.
However, within a few minutes the atmosphere became more serious.
Gonsolin clutched his ankle in obvious pain. He walked cautiously to the dugout to be checked by a trainer. He then jumped in a golf cart and was driven away.
The pitcher, it turned out, was sprained, and it could be a while before he appeared in a game again.
Nearly two weeks out from injury, manager Dave Roberts confirmed on Friday that Gonsolin would not be fit for opening day.
“To say he’s going to start the season,” Roberts said, “isn’t going to happen.”
The exact timeline of Gonsolin’s return is unclear. If his recovery doesn’t speed up — which doesn’t seem likely after Roberts cautioned multiple times it would be a “slow” process — the pitcher could be at risk of missing several times to start the season.
“Long term, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue,” Roberts said. “But that speaks to how we handle this thing on the front end.”
Consider this one of nine lives lit for the so-called “Catman” — an awkward, ill-timed, literal misstep that won’t derail his 2023 season, but is delaying his pursuit of “unfinished business.” is, as Roberts said, since last year.
While Gonsolin had a career regular season in 2022 — he went 16-1 with a 2.14 ERA to earn his first All-Star selection — he was one of several Dodgers who failed to perform in their sudden postseason elimination.
After missing most of September due to a forearm injury, Gonsolin flopped in his lone outing against the San Diego Padres, striking out only four in the start of Game 3, with the Dodgers expecting four innings.
While Gonsolin allowed just one run, his early exit helped put the team behind eight balls for the rest of the game, which ended in a loss, and the series, which ended one night later with a spectacular four-game losing streak. ended.
The disappointment continued early in Gonsolin’s season, becoming the latest in a pattern of playoff disappointments for the four-year veteran.
“It sucked,” he said when asked about the end of his first year, and only the Cactus League started this spring, March 3. “I feel like I did it back-to-back in 2021 and ’22.”
Gonsolin turned setbacks into inspiration as he formulated his personal goals for 2023.
“Go wall to wall”, Gonsolin announced. “Go from beginning to end.”
The beginning, now, has become complicated.
While Gonsolin declined several requests from reporters last week to discuss his injury, Roberts said the 28-year-old’s discontent was palpable.
“You work all offseason to get to a certain point coming into camp, and then to start this jerk, yeah, he’s frustrated,” Roberts said.
When asked if the randomness of Gonsolin’s ankle roll stood out among the injuries he had seen in his career, Roberts admitted that it was “up”.
“It was something very clearly benign,” Roberts said. “A guy like Tony, to have something like that, expensive up to this point, it’s just weird.”
The challenge now for Gonsolin and the Dodgers will be to ensure the pitcher is ready for a strong comeback and, ultimately, ends 2023, when he will once again be expected to serve as the anchor of the team’s starting rotation. .
“Tony talked about finishing the race or finishing the season strong, that’s still the trend,” Roberts said. “But I think, to make sure we pinch it and that’s very important.”
The Dodgers were trying to strike a different balance before the injury to pitching coach Gonsolin, with their focus narrowing by the day in search of big-picture improvements to be made from last season.
“It’s all about keeping everything in perspective,” said assistant pitching coach Conor McGuinness. “I think it’s frustrating for all of us, and certainly frustrating for him, that he had that year, and then had a little hiccup at the end. So I know it’s in the front of the mind. … But We don’t want him to think too much about the future. If he takes it day by day, we know he is going to be excellent for us.
After pitching two scoreless innings in his Cactus League debut earlier in the month, Gonsolin felt like he was making progress.
“I had a better understanding of what I was preparing for,” he said. “Just figuring out the routine, being able to build your body in a way to withstand the day-to-day routine and the load of the innings.”
While that work remains on hold, Gonsolin’s big goals for this season — to continually improve over the course of a full campaign, and pitch his best down the stretch — remain intact.
This is an important step in his growing career.
He will be hoping it goes smoother than the one that left him with ankle soreness that will delay the start of his season.
“As long as we stay on the same page with him, he should be good to go,” McGuinness said. “He’s an absolute beast. He’s going to be back out there soon.”