The Nationals acquired Tom Gorzelanny from the Cubs today in exchange for a few prospects, bolstering their starting rotation. Gorzelanny is only 28 right now, turning 29 this summer, and while he’s had quite a few years in the majors, he isn’t a free agent until the end of 2013 season. He’s also a lefty who’s seen some moderate success in the majors, but has had his share of troubles. Here is his story:
His first true stint in the majors was in 2006, with Pittsburgh. He had a 3.86 ERA despite some not so nice peripherals – not enough strikeouts and too many walks, partly because he managed to avoid the longball. He only gave up 3 homers in 11 starts. The next season he started to look like a real prospect. He made 32 starts, a 3.88 ERA, and kept his walks down enough to have a respectable K/BB. In 201 2/3 IP, he only struck out 135, and he walked 68.
After that nice debut, 2008 was awful, he had a 6.88 ERA, he walked more guys than he struck out, and he looked lost. 2009 started out ok with the Pirates – his K/BB was better, but he was coming out of the bullpen. He allowed too many runs for the perfectionist Pirates and was sent down to the minors.
From there, he was traded to the Cubs. He started 4 games, 1 was awful but the rest were pretty good, before being moved back to the bullpen. Finally in September he was put back in the rotation, where he managed 2 strong 5 IP performances before giving up 6 ER in his final performance. He ended the season with a 5.55 ERA and an uncertain future.
2010 worked out better for Tom. He was a starter in April and May, when through his first 8 starts of the year with a 3.09 ERA in 46 2/3 IP with an impressive 48 K and 17 BB. In the 8th start, he was hit on the ring finger with a line drive, but came out to pitch his next game. There, he went 6 2/3, struck out 5 and walked 3, but gave up 6 ER. At that point, Zambrano came back and Gorzy moved to the bullpen. He didn’t get used very much there, he was more of a 6th starter than a late inning guy, so the performance in that role, while adequate, wasn’t very meaningful.
Tom returned to the rotation on the last day of June in 2010, and didn’t really return to his early season form. While he wasn’t awful, in second time in the rotation he compiled a 4.60 ERA. This time, in 78 1/3 IP, he had 42 BB and 59 K. The strikeout rate of the first part of the season was unsustainable, but the jump in walks is not a good sign. Overall, he had 23 starts, a 4.09 ERA, threw 136 1/3 innings, struck out 119 and walked 68.
The Nats wouldn’t be out of their minds to expect a mid-rotation starter out of Gorzelanny. He needs to keep his walks down, and not hurt his fingers (two injuries there last year included the line drive off his hands), but he certainly has the makings of an effective pitcher. As a starter, when he’s walked guys, regardless of how many he strikes out, those walks have shown up on the scoreboard. When he doesn’t walk too many, he’s been very effective.
While he may not be a star, his numbers last year were better than any starter on the Nats other than Livan and Strasburg. If last year is any indication, he may have matured into a mid-rotation starter. He’s young, he’s got talent, and he’ll get a chance to prove it this year.