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Teammates celebrate CarGo's return to Rockies @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado doesn't hesitate.

"I love CarGo," he said. "He's been an older brother to me my whole career."

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado doesn't hesitate.

"I love CarGo," he said. "He's been an older brother to me my whole career."

With outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and the Rockies trying to finalize a one-year contract agreement Friday morning, Arenado apparently will get his brother back -- and the team will have a veteran power bat back in its lineup.

In nine seasons with the club, Gonzalez, 32, hit .292 with 211 home runs and 685 RBIs, and in good years and bad was one of the team's most magnetic personalities - in public and among his teammates. Friday morning at the Rockies' Salt River Fields at Talking Stick training center, players were hoping the deal would be finalized soon.

"He's always smiling, in a good mood, nice guy," center fielder Charlie Blackmon said. "Also pretty good at hitting balls over the fence."

Gonzalez reportedly turned down a multi-year contract offer before last season. He finished a mostly rough season at .262 with 14 homers and 57 RBIs, but in August and September he hit .325 with eight homers and 31 RBIs while helping the Rockies to their first postseason appearance in eight years. After the season, Gonzalez became one of several big-name free agents left waiting for offers. Arenado talked to Gonzalez during that period.

"I didn't advise him, but I said, 'Stay patient. Don't worry. You're going to be all right. You're too good,'" Arenado said. "I don't know if he was getting down, but he was weirded out that he wasn't in Spring Training yet. But it was all part of the process, and he learned something different this year.

"But CarGo, he keeps things light. He knows how to enjoy his life. He keeps things in perspective. That's why he's always been good. That's probably what he did this offseason."

The Rockies have been testing several young players, including outfielders David Dahl, Raimel Tapia and Mike Tauchman, to see if they could move ahead. All contributed at the Major League level last season and could blossom, and as of late Thursday afternoon club sources were saying they were merely monitoring Gonzalez and the free-agent market. But a deal apparently quickly began coming together.

"He's just one of the more talented players in the game, with the potential to be one of the best players," second baseman DJ LeMahieu said. "We've seen him do some incredible things on the field. I hope he's in the middle of our lineup. That would be awesome."

Rockies manager Bud Black has experimented with dropping Blackmon from leadoff to third this spring. It's not clear if the plan will continue, but Blackmon doesn't mind whatever Gonzalez's presence brings.

"It gives us more flexibility," Blackmon said. "There are options out there, and more options usually means you will be a little bit better."

Gonzalez spent 23 games at the No. 3 hole and 36 in cleanup -- his main spots in recent years. But he also spent 40 at No. 6 in a year when Black moved him around in an attempt to ignite his hitting.

What isn't clear is whether the difficulties Gonzalez and other free agents have had this offseason will be factors in the future, as Blackmon and LeMahieu are eligible for free agency after this season and Arenado becomes eligible after 2019. Should the Gonzalez contract become complete there would still be two key Rockies from last season, closer Greg Holland and catcher Jonathan Lucroy, awaiting contracts despite excellent track records and playoff contributions last season.

"I don't know; it seems like kind of a weird year for free agents," LeMahieu said. "It's disappointing for a lot of guys. A guy like Lucroy is a heck of a player. It stinks for him. Talking about CarGo, I'm really glad he's got the possibility of coming back to us. Really happy for him, personally."

In the Rockies' 11-8 National League Wild Card loss to the D-backs at Chase Field, Gonzalez delivered an RBI single to center field off D-backs closer Fernando Rodney inn the top of the ninth and was on base when Arenado's groundout ended the game.

Video: NL WC: Gonzalez grounds an RBI single in the 9th

Arenado was ready to say goodbye.

"I thought that was his last hit , for sure," Arenado said. "I thought it was over. I thought what a great way to end his Rockies career, with a hit. But hopefully he has more to come."

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

Colorado Rockies, Carlos Gonzalez