WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Even Marwin Gonzalez admits his spectacular 2017 season took him somewhat by surprise. Gonzalez refined his approach at the plate, finished sixth in the American League in OPS and wound up leading the Astros in RBIs before starting in left field in the playoffs and through the World Series.
His stunning, game-tying homer off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in Game 2 of the World Series was arguably the Astros' biggest hit of the postseason. The Astros rallied to win the game and tie the Series, and the rest is history.
"It was a special year for me personally and for the team, too," said Gonzalez, who hit .303 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs in 2017. "That made it even more special."
Gonzalez homered against the Dodgers from the left side of the plate, which is the switch-hitter's strongest side. A versatile player who can play as many as six positions, Gonzalez is working this spring to become a more proficient hitter from the right side of the plate.
In the regular season last year, Gonzalez hit .322/.394/.552 from the left side with 18 homers and 74 RBIs in 335 at-bats and .250/.328/.467 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 120 at-bats from the right side. It's a little more even for his career: .273 average as a lefty and .254 as a righty.
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"I didn't have a good year last year from my right side, so I'm working on it," he said. "I'm going to put 100 percent and desire in Spring Training to get better at it. That will help me for the season."
More than anything, that means taking as many right-handed swings as he can. Gonzalez is also lowering his hands in his right-handed stance to mirror his effective left-handed stance.
"It's hard for switch-hitters to be consistent from both sides," Gonzalez said. "There's only like a few guys over their career that have good numbers from both sides. ... Carlos Beltran. Chipper Jones. It's hard to keep the same pace from both sides. You always face more righties, which makes you forget a little from the right side. I'm trying to fix that and get even swings from both sides, even more from my right side, to try to get better at it."
Gonzalez earned some American League MVP Award votes last year for his monster season. Entering his final year before free agency, he stands to cash in because he can hit and can play nearly everywhere. He appeared in 134 games last year, in a combination of left field, shortstop, first base, second base, third base and right field.
"When he's locked in from both sides of the plate, he's as dynamic as anybody," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
Gonzalez admits his impending free agency is hard to ignore. He loves Houston and the fans, who have approached him on more than one occasion during the offseason and offered to buy his lunch. He considers Jose Altuve to be a brother.
"I love everything about Houston, but who knows?" he said. "God will put me in the right place. I'm going to wait for that moment and take it from there."