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CarGo finds spark after shedding old habit

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

PHOENIX -- Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez has used the words of the late Don Baylor and the help of his friend, Tigers star Miguel Cabrera, to regain his hitting stroke.

Since Sept. 1, Gonzalez -- struggling for much of the season -- has hit .480 with a .606 on-base percentage and 1.000 slugging percentage. Entering Monday, the surge included two home runs, seven doubles, seven RBIs and seven walks. It was the kind of carry-the-team hitting the Rockies have been waiting to see. And the timing of the surge was no coincidence.

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PHOENIX -- Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez has used the words of the late Don Baylor and the help of his friend, Tigers star Miguel Cabrera, to regain his hitting stroke.

Since Sept. 1, Gonzalez -- struggling for much of the season -- has hit .480 with a .606 on-base percentage and 1.000 slugging percentage. Entering Monday, the surge included two home runs, seven doubles, seven RBIs and seven walks. It was the kind of carry-the-team hitting the Rockies have been waiting to see. And the timing of the surge was no coincidence.

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Gonzalez unknowingly had fallen into an old habit, "wrapping his hands" -- or having his palms on the handle so that his fingers were turned inward. It was something Baylor, then the Rockies' hitting coach, noticed back in 2009, when Gonzalez arrived in a trade with the Athletics.

On Aug. 30, during the eighth inning of a 6-2 home loss to the Tigers at Coors Field, Gonzalez looked closely at Cabrera, who himself has been struggling. In fact, that at-bat resulted in a double-play grounder. Nonetheless, Gonzalez learned from the fellow Venezuela native.

"Miggy has a particular way in between pitches, outside of the box," Gonzalez said. "I like watching him hit. He's always been big about his bat grip. He plays with his hands in between pitches. That made me think about the way I used to do that.

"When I first came up, I used to wrap the bat. That's something that I did for a long time. That made me think about it: I wasn't grabbing the bat the right way."

Gonzalez went to bat in the ninth and walked, before Trevor Story's RBI double. It was a start.

Having his palms on the handle would cause the barrel to dip, which meant swinging under pitches or popping them skyward. Gonzalez loosened the grip, and held the handle more with loose fingers than his palm.

"I was doing it unconsciously," Gonzalez said. "For some reason this year, I was wrapping the bat again."

Baylor, who managed the Rockies from their inception in 1995 to '99, and returned as hitting coach in 2009, died of cancer on Aug. 7. But Baylor's advice still resonated with Gonzalez. Baylor delivered it when Gonzalez was called up from Triple-A and struggled initially. By season's end, Gonzalez was an offensive force for a playoff team.

"That's just the way I hit when I was a little kid," Gonzalez said. "He noticed it and he was like, 'Hey, you're doing this. Why do you grab the bat that way?' I said, 'That's the only way I know.' So he was like, 'Here's how you do it.' Then I had more bat control and the ball just jumped off the bat."

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies, Carlos Gonzalez