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CarGo confident finger injury behind him

Rockies All-Star outfielder feeling strong, relaxed in Spring Training

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez pretended to hold a bat, then acted as if he were fighting sleep. It was his best illustration of the monotonous nature of Spring Training at this point. He finished, of course, with the sheepish laugh of a man who knows that even with the long exhibition season, he has a good job.

Then Gonzalez talked about appreciating facing the Giants, a National League West team he'll face often during the regular season. But, on March 14, it's still not regular-season intensity.

"Who's pitching for them?" Gonzalez asked teammates, again laughing.

The answer wasn't pleasing. Already shaking his head over the fact he always seems to be facing tough left-handers, Gonzalez grounded out and struck out against Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner in his first two at-bats, then grounded out against lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt. Yet even with the boredom that comes with being a star performing at a time when the numbers don't count, Gonzalez has allayed any fears that the right middle finger injury that marred last season will linger.

Gonzalez suffered the injury last July 7 and was in and out of the lineup the rest of the year. When not hurt, he had 24 home runs and 63 RBIs in 86 games. After the injury, he had two homers and seven RBIs in just 24 games -- in many of which he was used as a defensive replacement.

It was a frustrating year for Gonzalez, who consulted several doctors about possibly having the finger repaired surgically. He took their advice and let it heal with rest. Before Spring Training he toyed with gripping the bat differently and hoping the change wouldn't affect the power and precision that has put him in two All-Star Games and has helped him accomplish four straight 20-homer, 20-stolen-base seasons.

It turned out the fears were unfounded. The contact he has made has been solid, and he has three doubles and three RBIs this spring.

"I feel like I'm holding the bat the same as before," Gonzalez said. "The important thing is I'm not worrying about anything. That's what I was looking for when I came here, how my hand would be feeling during games. My hand is very stable."

Rockies manager Walt Weiss said Gonzalez has changed the model of his bats to make his hand more comfortable, but other than that, there are no changes and no concerns.

Weiss said Gonzalez compares to former Rockies star and Hall of Fame candidate Larry Walker, who played right field with distinction.

"I told Walk yesterday, talking about CarGo, 'He's probably the closest thing I've seen to you as far as skill-set and tools,'" Weiss said. "There are a lot of similarities.

"Walk didn't strike out as much, but the skill-set is eerily similar. CarGo still hits for high average. They're very similar."

The 0-for-3 performance Friday dropped Gonzalez's spring average to .300, but he's healthy and headed toward regular-season readiness.

"It's pretty simple. I'm trying to make good contact and focus on the process, do things that will bring success," Gonzalez said. "The numbers don't count, so don't get caught up in them."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.

Colorado Rockies, Carlos Gonzalez