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Gonzalez embracing role as pitcher and mentor

Veteran's long and winding journey brings him back to club he's "excited" to be part of
MLB.com @RichardJustice

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Miguel Gonzalez's original signing bonus with the Angels was $20,000, and in this case, it wasn't about the money. We'll get to that later.

"I just wanted a chance to go play baseball," Gonzalez said. "I looked at the money as a way to help my family."

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Miguel Gonzalez's original signing bonus with the Angels was $20,000, and in this case, it wasn't about the money. We'll get to that later.

"I just wanted a chance to go play baseball," Gonzalez said. "I looked at the money as a way to help my family."

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That was a little more than 13 years ago, and he'll always be thankful that an Angels scout named Abe Flores saw something in the right-hander no one else had. Gonzalez did not light up radar guns, but he had four serviceable pitches and an understanding that pitching is as much about location and movement as velocity.

That bit of serendipity started Gonzalez on a long and winding path that has led him to the Orioles, White Sox, Rangers and now back with the White Sox, in a role that's partly about providing a veteran presence for the rotation and partly about being an example to young players.

At 33, Gonzalez has experienced a little bit of everything, from knee and elbow injuries early on to being left unprotected by the Angels for the Rule 5 Draft, and three years later, released by the Red Sox. Gonzalez made 101 appearances between 2012 and '15 for the Orioles and played a significant role in the rebirth of competitive baseball in Baltimore.

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After that, there were two seasons with the White Sox, a Trade Deadline deal to the Rangers last summer and, finally, back to the White Sox on a one-year, $4.75 million deal.

The veteran is impressed with the waves of young talent the White Sox have and understands that his role is both pitcher and mentor.

"It's exciting to know there's a lot of young talent here," he said. "And I'm excited to watch them play. Anything they need, inside baseball or out, that's what we're here for.

"It was an easy decision to come back here. The coaches and players were awesome. My wife loves Chicago. This is a great time to be part of this organization."

Gonzalez had some ups and downs in 27 starts last season, as he battled through an assortment of health and mechanical issues and finished with a 4.62 ERA.

"If I stay healthy, being able to go out every fifth day and give our team a chance to win, that's the most important thing for me," he said. "I'm healthy right now and ready to rock and roll."

Gonzalez's work ethic is inherited: he's the son of working-class parents in Los Angeles, and his father still rises at 4 a.m. to work as a groundskeeper at Loyola Marymount University.

"He loves it there," Gonzalez said. "He has friends there, and it's fun for him because he doesn't work as hard as he did back in the day."

Now, about that first signing bonus:

"It was $10,000 cash and $10,000 for college," Gonzalez said. "I gave the money to my parents."

As for the college fund, he can tap that if this baseball thing doesn't work out -- and there have been times he wondered if it would.

But one more point about money. Gonzalez didn't have much of it early on, and after his first pro season, he went to his native Mexico to play winter ball.

Why Mexico?

"Finances," he said. "I didn't have much money and had made much money."

His face brightened.

"I made enough that winter to buy a new Silverado," he said. "My brother still has it."

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Chicago White Sox, Miguel Gonzalez