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CarGo officially back, 'poised to have good year'

Rockies hope veteran power hitter builds off strong September
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Bud Black waited until the final months of last season, expecting Carlos Gonzalez's game-changing bat to produce. Interestingly, Black noticed that opponents also were expecting Gonzalez to ignite at any moment.

"I just notice how other teams pitch him," Black said Monday, when the club announced Gonzalez's one-year, $8 million contract after he passed his physical. "He's dangerous.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Bud Black waited until the final months of last season, expecting Carlos Gonzalez's game-changing bat to produce. Interestingly, Black noticed that opponents also were expecting Gonzalez to ignite at any moment.

"I just notice how other teams pitch him," Black said Monday, when the club announced Gonzalez's one-year, $8 million contract after he passed his physical. "He's dangerous.

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"In the second half, he took his walks. He ran deep counts. His September stats were great. … It's a threat, and the other side knows it."

Gonzalez has been in Scottsdale for a few days, but he and the club agreed that he not address the media immediately, with the final details and the physical pending. He is scheduled to do so Tuesday morning.

So insert Gonzalez back into the lineup, most likely in the No. 3 position ahead of Nolan Arenado on most occasions. Against difficult left-handers, it's more likely Trevor Story bats fourth and Gonzalez fifth.

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Gonzalez finished last season hitting .262 with 14 home runs in 136 games. From Aug. 1 to season's end, he hit .325 with a .407 on-base percentage and .583 slugging percentage, plus eight home runs and 31 RBIs. He was at his best in September. As the Rockies locked up their first playoff berth since 2009, Gonzalez surged to .377/.484/.766 with 12 doubles and six homers.

"What he did the last six weeks of the season was more like the CarGo that we've seen in the past," Black said. "He's poised to have a good year. Time will tell, but I'm sure when Dick [Monfort, the Rockies' owner, chairman and CEO] and Jeff [Bridich, the general manager] talked with CarGo, that was the same feeling. I think CarGo feels it, too.

"He's a bat in the middle of the order, which I think we need. He balances us out with some of our right-handed hitters, so the lineup gets a little deeper. And coming back to the Rockies -- he told me that he's a Rockie. He feels that this is his team."

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Without Gonzalez or a big bat to replace him, Black experimented with moving Charlie Blackmon from leadoff to No. 3. But from the beginning of last season, when Gonzalez and the club couldn't reach a multi-year extension, through an offseason when Gonzalez became one of many accomplished players seeking a job, the sides stayed in contact.

The Rockies originally acquired Gonzalez from the Athletics in November 2008, mainly for outfielder Matt Holliday. Gonzalez was a catalyst for a team that went to the playoffs in 2009. He won the National League batting title in 2010 with a .336 average and has represented the Rockies in three All-Star Games.

But injuries became an issue. In 2014, he had a tumor removed from his left index finger and had season-ending surgery on his left knee after playing 70 games. He hit 40 home runs in 2015, and batted .298 with 25 homers and 100 RBIs in 2016 before last year's struggles. Some bad bat-holding habits and a sleep problem affected him, but he was his old self by season's end.

Video: CarGo nearing a one-year deal with the Rockies

Gonzalez has hit .292 with 211 home runs and 685 RBIs in a Rockies uniform.

While most players were in Spring Training, Gonzalez stayed in shape in Florida. Black said the Rockies will "catch him up to speed as soon as possible, in a practical way."

To create room on the 40-man Major League roster, righty relief prospect Rayan Gonzalez -- who missed last season because of Tommy John right elbow surgery and will not be ready to start this season -- was placed on the 60-day disabled list.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Carlos Gonzalez