CLEVELAND -- With infielders such as third baseman Jose Ramirez, shortstop Francisco Lindor and second baseman Jason Kipnis, it can be tough for a young utility infielder like Erik Gonzalez to get consistent playing time and develop as a player.But with Kipnis getting the day off in Sunday's 4-2 win
CLEVELAND -- With infielders such as third baseman Jose Ramirez, shortstop Francisco Lindor and second baseman Jason Kipnis, it can be tough for a young utility infielder like Erik Gonzalez to get consistent playing time and develop as a player.
But with Kipnis getting the day off in Sunday's 4-2 win over the White Sox, Indians manager Terry Francona opted to start Gonzalez at second, and the rookie made the most of his rare start.
"That's kind of the dilemma," Francona said of trying to find playing time for Gonzalez. "The guys that he could play for, they are everyday guys. They don't sit very often. I worry about it a little bit because I don't ever want to get in the way of his development."
Luckily for Francona, Gonzalez took advantage of his opportunity and played a big role in the win, going 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI single. In fact, Gonzalez made an immediate impact when the first batter of the ballgame, Leury Garcia, lined the 11th pitch of his at-bat against Carlos Carrasco off the starter's glove. Gonzalez backhanded the ricochet and made a spinning, leaping throw to first baseman Carlos Santana for the out.
"He was in the middle of everything," Francona said. "I thought the thing that probably pleased me the most was we've been kind of stressing being ready for the first pitch. Carlos [Carrasco] has like a 10-pitch at-bat and a kid hits a ball off his glove and he made one of the best plays I've seen all year. ... Because he was ready and talented, we got an out. It really helps."
Although Gonzalez came into the game with only one plate appearance in the past nine days, his day was filled with a couple career firsts. After a wild pitch from White Sox starter Jose Quintana allowed the Tribe's second run to score, Gonzalez came through with his first career RBI on a two-out single to center to give the Indians a 3-0 lead.
In his next at-bat, the 25-year-old led off the seventh with a double to right -- his first career extra-base hit -- and showed aggressiveness on the basepaths, moving to third on a throwing error from Avisail Garcia. Gonzalez came home to score an important insurance run on an RBI double from Lindor.
"He was in the middle when we were scoring," Francona said of Gonzalez. "Everybody was happy for him."
Gonzalez -- who made only his fourth start of the season on Sunday and his first since June 1 -- said he approaches every game like he is in the lineup.
"I try to do my routine every day like I'm going to play," Gonzalez said. "I'm not in the lineup every day, but I think in my mind that I'm in the lineup every day. I prepare every day the same in the cage, and I try to take ground balls at different positions in BP, and being focused like I'm in the lineup."
Gonzalez was recalled from Triple-A Columbus on May 14 after the team waived former utility man Michael Martinez, and he has played in nine games. In 19 plate appearances since he was recalled, Gonzalez is batting .333 (6-for-18) and he has recorded two multihit games.
"I think I'm going to be an everyday player," Gonzalez said. "If I've got that with me, that keeps me happy every day."
William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.