CarGo Provides Evidence for Desire to Return to Regular Role
It was in Los Angeles earlier in the week. Carlos Gonzalez was being asked about his limited playing time, and without a hint of resentment, he made it known that he should be in the lineup every day, and fully expected to regain that role with the Rockies by making a statement when he does get his opportunities to play.
“Right now, it’s a different situation, of course," said Gonzalez, "but I still have it in my head that I am an everyday player, and at some point they are going to need me. I just have to make sure that when I get my chances that I perform the way that I know I can. That’s going to force the issue, and I’ll be playing more.”
On Sunday, in what was only his 11th start in 24 games since coming off the disabled list, Gonzalez added evidence on his own behalf. There was that first-inning, 461-foot home run that raced into the upper deck with an exit velocity of 110 miles per hour. He also singled three times in the Rockies 8-2 victory against the Reds.
"He looked like the old Cargo," said third baseman Nolan Arenado."He gets going and we have a chance to be extremely dangerous. When he gets hot, he's the hottest guy I've ever seen. He can single-handedly win games for us."
It was the ninth time in his career that he has had a perfect day at the plate with four or more hits.
Oh, and that home run was the 1,300th hit of his career, the last 1,259 coming with the Rockies, who acquired him from Oakland in the Matt Holliday trade after the 2009 season.
“It was a great game not just because I hit that home run — a home run always gets you excited — but at the same time, I knew I had a whole lot of work to do,” Gonzalez said. “So getting those three hits later on is a good sign.”
How good? Time will tell. The Giants open a three-game series against the Rockies at Coors Field on Monday night, and will start left-handed pitchers in Games 1 and 3 -- Andrew Suarez on Monday and Derek Holland on Wednesday.
It will be interesting to see if manager Bud Black gives Gonzalez a start in one of those games.
Cargo vs.LHP Year-By-Year
Source: Stats, Inc.
Black knows that over the course of the season Gonalez is a key player in the Rockies lineup. He's a three-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner. He struggled the bulk of last season, but emerged in September when the Rockies needed a lift to hang on to a post-season spot to hit .377 with six of his 14 home runs.
“I still believe that our best team has Carlos Gonzalez in the starting lineup the great majority of the time,” Black said following Sunday's game. “Is he going to play against every left-handed pitcher? No, but there might be some times that he plays against lefties.”
But he also knows that he has four left-handed-hitting outfielders -- Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, Gerardo Parra and David Dahl -- and so far this season Gonzalez has been fourth in terms of production.
|Source: Stats, Inc.|
Gonzalez knows the burden is on him to prove he's ready to resume that every-day role.
“The more I push myself, the better it is for me and the better it is for the team," he said. "So l won’t just give up. I’ll always make sure I’m working hard and getting prepared. I know my opportunity is going to come. That’s my mentality, no matter what.
“Even when I have down days, I always keep pushing, I always have my smile and I always make sure my teammates feel confident. Their growth is important to me, too.”
And that's the truth.
It's that CarGo glow that made the Rockies welcome Gonzalez back in mid-March, when after finding the free-agent market bare, he agreed to a one-year deal that has a $5 million base salary with $1 million incentives when he is on the active roster 125 days, 150 days and 175 days. The season is considered 187 days. Gonzalez already spent 10 days on the disabled list with a right-hamstring injury so that first incentive is in flux.
Gonzalez never uttered a word of concern after he turned down a three-year $45 million extension from the Rockies a year ago to pursue free agency, only to wind up back with the Rockies on his one year deal.
"When I came to (the United States) I was 16 and had a bat and a glove," he said. "What do I have to be upset about."
"Anybody can have a bad day, a good day," he said. "I believe I am a player who can help this club. Even if I have a down day, I keep smiling. I keep pushing."
That's the guy his teammates lobbied -- both with him and the Rockies management -- to bring back this year.
That's the guy who is in the clubhouse after a game, whether he goes 4-for-4 with a home run or 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, smiling, and talking to his teammates, encouraging them through struggles they are facing, instead of sitting in the corner and sulking.