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Gonzalez to answer outfield questions

CarGo: 'I’m ready and I don’t want to let anyone down'
@MandyBell02
March 23, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It’s the discussion that won’t go away. The state of the Indians’ outfield has been the main talking point surrounding the team all through the offseason and even more during the spring. But have they found the answer they were looking for in signing Carlos González? The

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It’s the discussion that won’t go away. The state of the Indians’ outfield has been the main talking point surrounding the team all through the offseason and even more during the spring. But have they found the answer they were looking for in signing Carlos González?

The Tribe has outfielders Tyler Naquin, Greg Allen, Jake Bauers and Trayce Thompson to consider in the corners, with Oscar Mercado not too far away in Columbus. But the biggest thing that’s unknown is what Gonzalez has left in the tank and when he’ll be ready to show it. He could be a huge, low-risk addition for Cleveland, but because he just hopped into Spring Training on Tuesday, the Indians aren’t quite sure what they will get.

“We’re not even to the point where he’s gonna be in games yet,” Indians manager Terry Francona said on Tuesday. “And then when he is, we’re gonna have to figure out, one, when that is because we’re trying to get our guys ready the last couple days [of camp]. We’ll figure all that out.”

Well, the Indians figured out their plan on Friday, penciling in Gonzalez as the DH in the team's Minor League game on Saturday. He will play there again on Sunday. When he first arrived in Goodyear, he said he had been hitting in the cages all offseason but hadn’t seen live pitching since the postseason. So, the Indians will likely have to use their entire month until his opt-out date on April 20 to ramp him up at the Minor League level.

“As a position player, it’s more difficult [missing Spring Training],” Gonzalez said. “If you’re a pitcher, it’s a different type of ready. You can just face a guy or throw a bullpen. But for a position player, we don’t just stay in one spot. Obviously, you want to face pitchers, but you have to run the bases, you’ve got to be out there and read fly balls and get used to your center fielder. If it’s a new organization, you want to know who’s going to be playing next to you. It’s a lot of things that take time to get used to, and that’s what Spring Training is for.”

An even bigger uncertainty regarding Gonzalez is whether he will be able to find consistency at the plate away from his former home stadium, Coors Field, where he hit .328/.388/.605 in 628 career games. Last season, the 33-year-old averaged .315 at home and .241 on the road.

“You play in the altitude, your body doesn’t feel the same,” Gonzalez said. “The ball obviously doesn’t do the same thing it does on the road. So, it’s a pretty good challenge for a player. … I feel like the more you get used to a place, your game is going to take over and you’re going to be able to do what you normally do. That’s one of the other things I’m excited about, just to get to play in a different ballpark, a different league. So I’m ready and I don’t want to let anyone down. I just want to continue my career and do what I do.”

If he’s able to show the Indians he’s ready by April 20 and that he can find offensive success at a new ballpark, the Indians’ outfield strengthens greatly by adding the 11-year veteran. By the end of next month, Gonzalez could be in right, Leonys Martin in center and Bauers, Allen or Naquin (whoever is hitting at the time) in left.

“I played my last 10 years with an organization that’s based on offense, but also, we work extremely hard on being a great defensive team,” Gonzalez said. “It was important for us to play defense, to be great when it comes to defense. Coors Field is a place where you can lose a game in one inning.

"If you look at the roster, you can see guys that win Gold Gloves everywhere. Nolan Arenado and I won a couple Gold Gloves in the outfield. You have DJ LeMahieu, another Gold Glove Colorado player. That’s one thing I can bring to this organization, just be a tremendous outfielder, help my team save some runs and, when it comes to the opportunity to be clutch at the plate, take those chances.”

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.