The Brewers have claimed right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez off waivers from the Twins, per a club announcement. Right-hander Freddy Peralta was transferred from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster. Minnesota had both selected Gonzalez’s contract for a spot start and subsequently designated him for assignment over the weekend. He’d also been up for a start as a Covid-related replacement when the Twins were in Toronto.
The Twins signed Gonzalez to a minor league pact over the winter and got some decent innings out of him in Triple-A St. Paul, where he posted a 3.44 ERA with a 23.2% strikeout rate and 9.3% walk rate in 36 2/3 innings (five starts, three relief appearances). Gonzalez tallied seven total big league frames with the Twins but was tagged for six runs on the strength of a dozen hits, including two homers.
A former first-round pick of the Rangers back in 2013 (23rd overall), Gonzalez has now seen action in parts of six Major League seasons between Texas, Colorado and Minnesota but has never had much success. He posted a 3.90 ERA in 67 innings as a rookie in 2015, but he did so while walking more hitters (11.4%) than he struck out (10.7%), so that production never felt sustainable. Indeed, in 201 2/3 frames since that rookie showing, he’s pitched to a collective 6.29 ERA with just a 14.2% strikeout rate (albeit against a solid enough 8.4% walk rate).
Though he hasn’t had much in the way of Major League success, Gonzalez clearly showed enough with the Twins to pique the interest of a Milwaukee front office that has done well when it comes to coaxing new levels of performance from pitchers. The 2022 version of Gonzalez, notably, is a bit different than prior iterations, too. He’s entirely scrapped his curveball, going from a five-pitch mix to a more concise four-pitch mix: sinker, four-seamer, changeup, slider. Gonzalez had begun to move away from the sinker in 2019 upon signing with the Rockies, but he’s using it nearly a quarter of the time in 2022 and enjoying standout ground-ball rates both in Triple-A (55.7%) and the big leagues (55.6%) as a result. He’s also back to sitting at 92 mph with the sinker after seeing his average velocity dip to 90.6 mph in 2021.
Gonzalez doesn’t have any minor league options remaining, so the Brewers will try to elevate his game while he’s working at the big league level. There’s no immediate need in the rotation even with injuries to Peralta and Brandon Woodruff, as the Brewers are getting strong work from Corbin Burnes, breakout lefty Eric Lauer, rookie Aaron Ashby and quietly solid righty Adrian Houser. Rookie Jason Alexander has given them a handful of good starts, too, though like a younger Gonzalez, he’s walked more hitters than he’s fanned along the way. It’s possible Gonzalez will get a spot start for the Brewers, but he’ll otherwise likely be ticketed for a long relief role for now.