Gio Gonzalez hit hard in rehab start, but says his shoulder feels “really good”

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Gio Gonzalez made a minor league rehab start with High-A Potomac last night as he nears his return from left shoulder inflammation. It didn’t go well, as he was hit hard for eight runs on seven hits and four walks over just 3 2/3 innings.

Gonzalez began his outing with two scoreless innings, but he gave up a grand slam in the third inning and was pulled in the fourth inning once he reached his limit of 65 pitches. While the results were poor, the southpaw told James Wagner of the Washington Post that his shoulder felt good.

“It’s definitely a work in process going from spring training to building it up to shutting it down and then going back at it again,” said Gonzalez, who is on the disabled list for the first time in his seven-year major league career. “To make the wheels go, you’ve got to crank them up and try to find where you’re at. It’s just good to know that my body feels good and my arm feels good.”

The initial plan was for Gonzalez to make just one rehab start and return for a start against the Giants next week, but that’s no sure thing. The Nationals might want to see better results first.

Gonzalez, 28, had a 4.62 ERA and 53/20 K/BB ratio in 50 2/3 innings across nine starts prior to landing on the disabled list last month.

Blue Jays shut down Steve Pearce for the rest of 2017

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The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.

Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.

With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.

Brewers’ Julio Mendez remains hospitalized after hit by pitch

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Brewers’ minor league infielder Julio Mendez remains in “critical but stable condition,” club GM David Stearns announced Friday. Back in August, Mendez suffered a cardiac event after he was inadvertently struck by a ball from the Angels’ Austin Krzeminksi during a game between the rookie-level affiliates. The 20-year-old was removed to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment following the incident and has recently been transferred to a hospital in his native Venezuela.

Mendez was in his fourth season with the Brewers’ organization. He spent the majority of his 2017 run with the rookie-level AZL Brewers, slashing .255/.294/.355 with 10 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and four stolen bases over 119 plate appearances. He currently holds a career .241/.324/.309 batting line, 33 extra bases and a .633 OPS through 668 PA.

Baseball is still on the back burner, however, as Mendez appears to have made little progress nearly a month following the hit by pitch. Thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time.