Injury puts Tony Gonsolin’s pursuit of unfinished business on hold


The injury seemed so innocuous at the time that Tony Gonsolin’s teammates initially laughed at his one misstep.

After a series of field 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 gave way on the infield grass, twisting his ankle and throwing him off balance.

At first, a group of throwers standing nearby found humor in the sight, dazzling their feline teammate for not landing on their feet.

Within minutes, however, the mood turned more serious.

Gonsolin grabbed his ankle in obvious pain. He walked cautiously to the dugout to be checked by a trainer. Then he jumped in a golf cart and was chased away.

It turned out the pitcher had suffered a sprained ankle and it could be a while before he appeared in a game again.

Almost two weeks after the injury, manager Dave Roberts confirmed on Friday that Gonsolin would not be healthy in time 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 pick up speed — which seems unlikely after Roberts repeatedly warned it will be a “slow” process — the pitcher could be in danger of missing multiple starts to start the season.

“Long term, I don’t think it will be a problem,” Roberts said. “But it shows how we’re going to handle this thing up front.”

Consider it one of nine lives burned for the self-styled “Catman” — a bizarre, ill-timed, and literal misstep that won’t derail his 2023 season, but set back his pursuit of “unfinished business,” as Roberts put it. called, 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 many Dodgers who failed to happen during their abrupt elimination in the playoffs.

After missing most of September with a forearm injury, Gonsolin fell short in his lone outing against the San Diego Padres, getting just four outs in a start from the Game 3 that the Dodgers hoped would last four innings.

While Gonsolin gave up just one run, his early exit helped the team get behind the eight ball for the rest of that game, which ended in a loss, and the series, which s ended in a stunning four-game defeat one night later.

The frustration lingered early in Gonsolin’s offseason, becoming the latest in a string of playoff disappointments for the four-year veteran.

“It sucked,” he said when asked about his end to the year after his first and only Cactus League start this spring on March 3. “I feel like I did it two years in a row in 2021 and 22.”

Gonsolin turned setbacks into motivation while setting his personal goals in 2023.

“Go wall to wall,” Gonsolin said. “Go from beginning to end.”

The beginning, now, was complicated.

While Gonsolin turned down several requests from reporters last week to discuss his injury, Roberts said the 28-year-old’s displeasure was clear.

“You work all offseason to get to a certain point to get into camp and then to have that setback early, yeah, he’s frustrated,” Roberts said.

When asked where the randomness of Gonsolin’s rolling ankle ranks among the 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, for something like this to happen, to be expensive so far, it’s very weird.”

The challenge now for Gonsolin and the Dodgers will be to ensure the pitcher stays ready for a strong comeback and, possibly, finish through 2023, when he will once again have to serve as the anchor of the starting rotation. of the team.

“Tony talked about finishing the race or finishing the season strong, it’s still in play,” Roberts said. “But I think it’s very important to make sure we smother that and it doesn’t linger.”

Dodgers pitching coaches were trying to find a different kind of balance before Gonsolin’s injury, focusing on the day-to-day while looking for overall improvements from last season.

“It’s just about keeping everything in perspective,” assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness said. “I think it’s frustrating for all of us, and frustrating for him of course, that he had the year he had and then had a little hiccup at the end. So I know that that’s a priority. … But we just don’t want him thinking too much about the future. If he takes it day to day, we know he’ll be exceptional for us.

After pitching more than two scoreless innings in his Cactus League debut earlier this month, Gonsolin felt he was making such progress.

“I had a better understanding of what I was preparing for,” he said. “Just kind of understanding the routine, the daily routine and being able to build my body up to handle the load of the sleeves.”

Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin warms up before the first inning of a spring training game against the Angels March 3 in Tempe, Arizona.

(Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

While that work is pending, Gonsolin’s most important goals for this season – to improve steadily over the course of a full campaign and to perform at their best when it counts – remain intact.

This is an important step in his budding career.

He hopes it turns out better than the one that 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 good to go,” McGuiness said. “He’s an absolute beast. He’ll be back there soon.

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