Updated at: 03/23/2013 4:39 PM
(AP) PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Even though Gio Gonzalez says he needs to build up arm strength, he looked fine Saturday in his first spring training start after the World Baseball Classic.
Gonzalez allowed one run and four hits in six innings during the Washington Nationals’ 3-1 loss to the New York Mets.
"I was trying my best to attack the strike zone," Gonzalez said. "The defense was most important today. Guys were making great plays, double plays, and other than that I’m still working. The arm feels good."
Gonzalez had pitched in a minor league game since returning from the WBC, but had not faced major league hitters since throwing five shutout innings against Puerto Rico on March 13.
Gonzalez gave up a first inning double to Marlon Byrd and allowed a run in the second inning, but then didn’t allow any runners past first base. He struck out three and walked one.
As the game went on, Gonzalez’ fastball seemed to get stronger. It was clocked in the high 80s in the first three innings, but topped out at 94 mph.
"I was trying to make the adjustment every inning," Gonzalez said. "These guys are swinging hard, and I was lucky enough to miss some of their bats. At the same time, when they made contact, it was at some of the players."
New York’s Lucas Duda went 2 for 3, including a tiebreaking solo home run off Drew Storen in the seventh.
Duda reworked his swing during the offseason and has four homers despite a slow spring training start.
"I would like to say I see a lot of improvement in him," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He’s getting himself in a much better hitting position. You can tell he’s got more confidence when he gets up there. He’s taking tougher pitches. There’s been some real positives."
Mets prospect Travis d’Arnaud added a RBI single in the eighth. Washington’s Chad Tracy was 3 for 3 with a double, while Steve Lombardozzi scored the lone run for the Nationals.
Mets starter Rafael Montero allowed four hits in 4 2-3 scoreless innings and struck out three. Montero will start the season in the minor leagues.
"I saw much better velocity than I saw early, better command of his breaking balls than I did early," Collins said. "I hope he really continues to work hard with his changeup. He’s got an outstanding change in the making."
NOTES: Nationals LF Bryce Harper was a late scratch due to a swollen left hand. He is expected to play against the Miami Marlins on Sunday. ... Mets 3B David Wright took swings off a tee for the first time since being diagnosed with a strained intercostal muscle. Collins said he hoped Wright would be able to get some at-bats by the middle of the week. ... Mets 2B Daniel Murphy (intercostal muscle) could play in a minor league game Sunday. ... Mets closer Frank Francisco (elbow) threw batting practice for the first time this spring training.
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