Cardinals' top draft pick Gonzales enjoys first day wearing red

News-DemocratJune 19, 2013 

— Left-hander Marco Gonzales had a memorable debut Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium.

The St. Louis Cardinals' No. 1 draft pick, a left-hander from Gonzaga University, threw in the bullpen as General Manager John Mozeliak and pitchers Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller watched from a few feet away.

"It was a blast," said Gonzales, 21, the 19th pick in the draft June 6. "I was kind of nervous going into it. I hadn't really given any thought to being nervous or anxious or anything like that until I got on that mound.

"But once I started going, I realized it was (another) day at the yard. It was fun. It was a good time meeting everybody and I'm glad to be here. I'm just really honored."

Gonzales, a native of Fort Collins, Colo., agreed to terms with the Cardinals last week. He passed a physical and signed a contract worth $1.85 million Wednesday. The slot value for the 19th overall pick was $2,055,800.

Gonzales, who will report to the Gulf Coast League Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., was 26-7 with a 2.34 ERA in his career at Gonzaga. He was 7-3 with a 2.80 ERA and two shutouts in 17 starts this season. Gonzales had 25 walks and 96 strikeouts in 106 innings.

Baseball America ranked Gonzales the 28th-best prospect in the draft, with his changeup considered a dominant pitch. His fastball is typically in the 89- to 91-mph range.

"I've definitely tried to model myself after Johan Santana --just with the pitchability," Gonzales said. "It's between him and Cliff Lee. Pitchability and then use of the changeup, getting a little crafty at times. I'm a quiet guy who goes about his business and gets hitters out. ... I try to come out with energy and excitement and a lot of competitiveness."

Cardinals Scouting Director Dan Kantrovitz said Gonzales' innings will be closely monitored in the GCL. When Gonzales does pitch, Kantrovitz expects him to have success against young hitters that haven't seen a repertoire like the one Gonzales possesses.

"From a talent standpoint, he's above the GCL," Kantrovitz said. "From a workload standpoint, that's the place where we can most carefully manage it. We're going to be careful not to say he's going to progress from there too quickly.

"He had a long college season this year and he pitched for Team USA over the (2012) summer. We're going to err on the side of caution with his workload this summer. We don't want to get too aggressive with expectations to this point."

Unlike many young players, Gonzales is a fan of the game. He regularly watches games on television, studying pitchers and applying things that can enhance his performance.

"I watch their reactions around the mound and try to emulate them as much as I can," he said.

Gonzales' favorite Cardinal is third baseman David Freese, whom he was able to meet Wednesday.

"I walked by David Freese and he's one of my heroes, man," Gonzales said. "I love that guy. He's one of my favorite players. I said a brief hi to him and got to talk to Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller a little bit. To see those guys in real life is awesome.

"I've always followed the Cardinals and love the way they play baseball. David Freese, honestly, is electric. I love watching him --mostly because of the (2011) World Series. I've just loved following his career ever since then."

Gonzales took time after the draft to call the Cardinals' second first-round pick, pitcher Rob Kaminsky, and their second-round selection, shortstop Oscar Mercado. He said it was important to him to begin forging friendships.

"I've heard Kaminsky's and Mercado's names so much," Gonzales said. "I just needed to reach out to them and make connections right away. That way, if we play together down the road, we already have that established and we have a relationship started."

All three players will be with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.

Kantrovitz said he expects to agree to terms Thursday with fourth-round pick Mason Katz, a second baseman from Louisiana State. Katz batted .370 with 16 home runs and 70 RBIs in 68 games.

Once Katz signs, the Cardinals will have under contract all 11 players selected in the first 10 rounds of the draft.

Teams have until July 12 to sign their remaining draft picks. Otherwise, players will go back into the draft pool next year.

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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