OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gio Gonzalez got bounced around a lot early in his career before eventually winding up with a home in Washington.
Constantly involved in trades between playoff contenders, Gonzalez was grateful when Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo acquired him from Oakland and then signed him to a five-year, $42 million contract before last season.
He hopes some of that gratitude showed Thursday when he picked up the Warren Spahn Award as baseball's top left-handed pitcher.
"When he picked me up and traded for me, he didn't question anything I had — none of my abilities. He just said, 'Let's get him a contract. Let's keep him here. We want him.' That to me meant all the world to me," Gonzalez said.
"It felt like I needed to prove something not to him, but to represent him very proudly. This is my way of saying, 'Thank you' and proving to whoever doubted the situation or any of my abilities."
Gonzalez finished the season with a 21-8 record, a 2.89 ERA and 207 strikeouts to win the award that is decided purely on statistics. It is named after Warren Spahn, the top-winning lefty in baseball history.
"There's already one best lefty in baseball, and that's Warren Spahn," ''I think to follow in those footsteps, it's an honor."
Gonzalez hopes the award isn't the last time he's associated with Spahn. He broke into the majors with Oakland in 2008 and has improved his win total, ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio in each season so far.
"His career got better as he got older," Gonzalez said. "He won all those trophies: a 17-time All-Star, 363 wins. And remember, he's also a war vet, also a Purple Heart. There's so much history about the man. I would love to walk in those shoes.