SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez understands the way he feels is more important than what the Spring Training stat sheet says.Gonzalez knew last spring that the health of his surgically repaired left knee didn't match his .310 Cactus League batting average. April and most of May were
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez understands the way he feels is more important than what the Spring Training stat sheet says.
Gonzalez knew last spring that the health of his surgically repaired left knee didn't match his .310 Cactus League batting average. April and most of May were a struggle before he finally felt stable, then he powered to 40 home runs and 97 RBIs. This year, Gonzalez feels much better, even despite the .227 average he carried into Saturday afternoon's game against the Rangers.
"My body is in a different place right now," said Gonzalez, who weighed in at 215 pounds when he arrived and is around 213 and expects to drop a little more. "I'm ready to play already -- nine or 10 or 12 innings if I have to. I feel great physically. Baseball-wise, I'm still working on it. After taking three or four months off without seeing pitches, it's going to be a little different. But those are just little things.
"I feel good that I don't have to worry about getting treatment or getting strength back or working on the strength in my legs. I'm just working on what I need to work on -- getting here early, getting in the batting cage."
Gonzalez entered last spring with a greater mental burden. He was coming off two injury-shortened, subpar seasons and was facing an increased number of extreme shifts. It took him into the season to not care where defenders were positioned.
Looking at spray charts on BaseballSavant.com, the shift is justified, because if Gonzalez mishits a ball, it tends to be a grounder to the pull side. But when he hits line drives and fly balls, they spray all over the park. Sure, a liner may go into a shift, giving the defense a chance, but it's as likely to go to the opposite gap. Once he learned that his natural swing can be rewarded even with the shift, Gonzalez stopped worrying about adjusting his swing.
Gonzalez drilled 15 of his home runs, 15 of his 25 doubles and one of his two triples to left or center.
"When I'm going well, I'm a foul-pole-to-foul-pole guy -- I can hit down either line with authority," Gonzalez said. "I can hit opposite-field home runs. So I don't get caught up in where the defense is playing."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and** like his Facebook page**.