Oakland's young pitching can win now

Updated: January 15, 2011, 1:32 PM ET
By Buster Olney

The first pieces of a rally would start to take shape and it was habit for Gio Gonzalez to immediately imagine, in one corner of his mind, the worst possible outcome. Runners at first and third and nobody out could quickly lead to a three-run inning, he'd think, and a three-run inning could mean an early hook, and an early hook would mean a failed opportunity. His mind would race in this way, as it does for a lot of young pitchers.

"In 2008 and 2009, I wasn't mature enough to pitch at that level," he said the other day. "In 2008 and 2009, the game would speed up and I wouldn't take a step back."

As Gonzalez watched Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson and others over the past two seasons, he saw how they viewed these flare-ups: Runners at first and third and nobody out represented an opportunity for them; get a ground ball and you might get two outs with one pitch. Minimize the damage and you win the inning.

And so in this way, the Oakland left-hander has evolved. Gonzalez has always had a big arm and big potential, which is why he has been traded repeatedly; the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago White Sox and the Oakland Athletics have seen his potential.