Tony Gonsolin wasn’t a pitcher at Saint Mary’s College in California. On Tuesday night, he’ll be on the mound starting Game 6 of the World Series for the Dodgers as they try to win a championship.
The Dodgers are up three games to two on the Rays in the best-of-seven Fall Classic, and Gonsolin will get the ball for the second time in the series. He served as an opener for a bullpen game in Game 2, but LA manager Dave Roberts has said he’s hoping for five to six innings from Gonsolin in Game 6. That means that someone who didn’t pitch full time until pro ball could be the winning pitcher in the Dodgers’ first World Series triumph since 1988. That would be something.
Here’s what you need to know about Gonsolin before his start:
1. Tony Gonsolin played outfield in college
The Athletic detailed how the Dodgers found Gonsolin. They were scouting other players at a college league all-star game, but Gonsolin ran a fast 60-yard sprint. Then he went deep a number of times in that event’s home run derby. He caught their attention at that point, and that was before he came out of the bullpen throwing 95 mph.
They tried to convince Gonsolin to sign then as an undrafted free agent, but he went back to Saint Mary’s for his senior year. The Dodgers picked Gonsolin in the ninth round the following year, 2016, and immediately converted him into a full-time pitcher.
2. A lifting program got Tony Gonsolin’s fastball to 100 mph
Gonsolin began a pitcher-specific program once he got into the Dodgers’ farm system, according to The Athletic. That pushed his fastball from averaging around 90 mph in college to touching triple digits.
The increase in velocity and sole focus on pitching helped Gonsolin rise quickly through the minors. Gonsolin made his MLB debut in 2019, and across his first two MLB regular seasons he has put up a combined 2.60 ERA to go with 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Gonsolin has yet to shine in the postseason in 2020; he struggled twice against the Braves in the NLCS and in Game 2 of the World Series.
3. Tony Gonsolin really likes cats
The Fox broadcast really likes to bring up Gonsolin’s appreciation of cats. In Game 2, the network played this video of Gonsolin acting sort of like a cat.
As of March, Gonsolin had five cats that stay at his mother’s house.
“I would compare a cat to a puppy,” Gonsolin told The Athletic. “Puppies are soft and playful and fluffy. Cats are that the entire time. They never stop being fluffy or playful. They’re like a little puppy at all times. They can’t sit or stay or whatever, but they’re just small and fluffy.”
4. Tony Gonsolin can make rookie World Series history
You have to go back to 2002 to find the last rookie pitcher to start and earn a win in a World Series-clinching game — that was John Lackey for the Angels in Game 7. With Roberts hoping Gonsolin lasts at least the requisite five innings to be eligible for a win, he’ll have a chance at accomplishing the feat if the Dodgers’ bats can handle Tampa Bay starter Blake Snell.
The 2020 season is Gonsolin’s rookie year because he only pitched 40 innings in 2019 (which is below the 50-inning threshold for a player to lose rookie status). Since moving to Los Angels from Brooklyn for the 1958 season, the Dodgers have won five World Series titles. None of the clinching games in those series was started and won by a rookie. Gonsolin can change that.