A fitter Victor González is fitting in nicely in Dodgers’ bullpen

Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Victor Gonzalez throws to a San Diego Padres batter during the eighth inning.
Dodgers reliever Victor González throws vs. San Diego. He came to camp this season weighing 30 pounds less than in 2021.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

It took Victor González just 2½ weeks from his April 22 promotion to the Dodgers to forge a prominent role in a bullpen that has found its footing after a rocky start to the season, the left-hander’s 7⅔ scoreless innings in seven games quickly earning the confidence of manager Dave Roberts.

“He’s climbing rapidly,” Roberts said this week, when asked where González rates on his trust-o-meter. “He’s a leverage guy. I trust him in virtually any spot.”

González, 27, experienced an equally swift ascent two years ago but on the bathroom scale, not the mound. His sudden weight gain derailed a career that began with such promise as a rookie during pandemic-shortened 2020.


Clayton Kershaw helped out the Dodgers’ taxed bullpen with seven sharp innings and the Dodgers hit three home runs to take their series with the Brewers with an 8-1 win.

May 10, 2023

After giving up two runs and five hits in 6⅔ innings of eight playoff games during the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series run, González nearly ate his way out of the game in 2021.

The native of Tuxpan, Mexico, reported to camp that spring at 225 pounds. By July, he was 245 pounds. His ERA rose with his weight and put a strain on his body. González went on the injured list because of plantar fasciitis in July, suffered a knee injury in August and was banished to the minor leagues.

“You don’t look at it like, ‘I’m going to get fat,’ ” González told The Times in 2022. “You eat and eat and when you get to the point where you can’t make a pitch like you want to, you don’t realize it.”

González took the advice of fellow Mexican left-hander Julio Urías and hired a personal trainer who established a diet, workout plan and sleep schedule for him. González reported to camp in 2022 weighing 214 pounds, more than 30 pounds below his playing weight the previous summer.

A season-ending elbow surgery last May limited González to 12 triple-A appearances, but the reliever was undeterred. He reported to camp this spring at a lean 217 pounds, was dominant in his first six games for triple-A Oklahoma City and hasn’t missed a beat in the big leagues, striking out nine of 27 batters.

“Everybody’s career arc goes through ebbs and flows — it’s just a matter of how you handle that adversity,” Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior said. “We saw in 2020 how he was able to handle some intense, stressful situations between the lines.

Victor González pitching against the Milwaukee Brewers in April 2021, left, and May 2023.
(Morry Gash/Associated Press)

“I think he took that same approach to the adversity of his career, and right now, he’s coming through on the other side. It’s been fun to watch, and I think everybody’s extremely happy for him.”

The velocity of González’s sinking fastball, which averages 95.3 mph and has touched 97 mph, is up slightly from 2020-2021, but the pitch, delivered from a funky, lower arm slot, has been more lively, with more vertical drop (23.5 inches) and horizontal break (18.1 inches).

He has coupled that with an 87-mph slider and an improving 88-mph changeup. A healthier body and more extensive daily workout regimen has helped him maintain a more consistent delivery.

“He’s stronger,” Prior said. “So much of it is timing and sequencing and how your body is moving, so he’s probably had more freedom to do things that maybe he didn’t have in the past. The way the ball is coming out now, what he’s found, has been pretty electric.”


“He’s never going to be a command guy — he doesn’t need to be. But it seems like everything he’s throwing looks like a strike. That’s the key.”

— Dave Roberts, Dodgers manager, on Victor González

González didn’t pitch well enough in spring training to make the team — he had a 10.38 ERA in five games — but he was still adjusting to a lower weight class and getting comfortable with his mechanics.

“Keeping that strength, especially in my core, being able to rotate the way I’m used to, I think that’s been helping me the most,” González said through an interpreter. “I wasn’t able to establish that last year because of the injury, but being able to pitch with the weight I’ve lost has helped me incrementally to get used to how I throw off the mound.”

González has held hitters to a .160 average (four for 25) and .422 on-base-plus-slugging percentage entering Friday night’s game against the San Diego Padres and has not given up a hit in 13 at-bats against right-handed hitters.

“He’s always been an uncomfortable at-bat for lefties, for righties, but the question is the consistency of the strike throwing,” Roberts said. “He’s never going to be a command guy — he doesn’t need to be. But it seems like everything he’s throwing looks like a strike. That’s the key. Whether it ends up in the strike zone, he’s getting swings and misses.”

The heavyweight version of González went 3-1 with a 3.57 ERA in 44 games in 2021, with 33 strikeouts and 19 walks in 35⅓ innings. The lighter version has walked only one batter this season.


“It’s strikes,” Prior said, when asked why González is pitching so much better with similar stuff. “In 2021, he was kind of snake-bit with his ability to get the ball in the strike zone. His slider was a little flatter and the location was more up. It was easier to get the bat on the ball.

Dodgers celebrate winning the World Series on Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas.
An emotional Victor González holds the Mexican flag after the Dodgers won the 2020 World Series in Arlington, Texas. González was the winning pitcher in Game 6.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

“Now, being in the strike zone more, he’s on the attack and putting hitters on the defensive, whereas in 2021, he was behind in counts and allowing hitters to be a little more comfortable and to zone him up a little more. That’s where we saw more of the hits and the struggles.”

González has been a key contributor to an improved bullpen that ranked 26th in the majors with a 5.18 ERA on April 28 but has given up one run or fewer in 11 of the last 13 games, lowering that ERA to 4.35.

The group of relievers that Roberts trusts in high-leverage situations — limited to Evan Phillips, Brusdar Graterol and Caleb Ferguson for the first few weeks — has expanded to include González and Shelby Miller.

Yency Almonte has thrown 4 ⅔ scoreless innings in four games, lowering his ERA from 9.28 to 6.46, and Justin Bruihl has a 1.35 ERA in six games over two big league stints.


After helping the Dodgers win the World Series, Victor González put on so much weight that it led to a poor 2021. He’s back in shape and ready to improve.

April 5, 2022

This new-found bullpen depth was on full display Tuesday night in Milwaukee, when starter Noah Syndergaard left after one inning because of a cut on his index finger and seven relievers combined to give up two runs and four hits in eight innings of a 6-2 win.

González retired the side in order with a strikeout in the sixth, continuing a resurgence that began with a loss … of about 25 pounds.

“If you just put a side-by-side picture of him from [2021] to this year, the amount of work he’s put in, just getting his body right … he’s just in great shape,” assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness said.

“His recovery is way better. The velocity holds better. He can stay in his mechanics more naturally. It’s hard to determine when he’s out of his throw right now, and that’s a good sign his body is in a great place.”