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Marwin's versatility put to test in Twins debut

Despite recent arrival to camp, Gonzalez 'looks really good' at game speed
@dohyoungpark
March 1, 2019

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rocco Baldelli decided to start Marwin Gonzalez at third base in his Twins debut on Friday -- but later, during a staff discussion on the bench, it came up that Gonzalez hadn't even spent much time at the hot corner last season. Not that it mattered.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rocco Baldelli decided to start Marwin Gonzalez at third base in his Twins debut on Friday -- but later, during a staff discussion on the bench, it came up that Gonzalez hadn't even spent much time at the hot corner last season.

Not that it mattered.

Four batters into the Twins' 4-3 win over the Red Sox on Friday, Boston cleanup hitter Gorkys Hernandez chopped a grounder down the third-base line, and Gonzalez went to the ground for a backhanded stop before fluidly regaining his footing and firing an accurate throw across the diamond for the out.

Though Gonzalez was a late arrival to Twins camp on Monday, a week after full-squad workouts began, he impressed both offensively and defensively in his Minnesota debut.

"You know what it shows? This is a baseball player, a guy that has that ability," Baldelli said. "I bet you can take him off a position for multiple years and give him a few days to get back in the swing of things, and I wouldn't put it past him."

The 29-year-old only played 19 innings at third base last season -- including two starts -- but did make appearances at every position in the field but pitcher and catcher. The Twins played many of their projected Opening Day starters on Friday against the Red Sox, but they're still without third baseman Miguel Sano, who is still recovering from a laceration to his right heel area.

Gonzalez, signed to a two-year, $21 million contract, said that he began working out in Miami when he remained unsigned as Spring Training got underway, but he didn't want to face live pitching until he signed with a team. In his second plate appearance of Friday's contest, he worked an 11-pitch at-bat against Boston left-hander Bobby Poyner.

"Right off the bat he's out there having these long at-bats, fouling tough pitches off," Baldelli said. "He looks really good."

Gonzalez was 0-for-2 on Friday, grounding into a double play and flying out before he was removed from the game before the fifth inning.

Baldelli previously said that he hoped to have a discussion with Gonzalez about the logistics of his defensive assignments on any given day, for example how much of a heads-up Gonzalez might need, or what the overall plan might be. But due to the Twins' busy travel schedule and Gonzalez's recent arrival to camp, Baldelli said they haven't had those discussions yet.

"Truthfully, whether he knows or not, he will be fine," Baldelli said.

Gonzalez isn't scheduled to make the trip across Florida to West Palm Beach on Saturday for a road game against the Nationals, but moving forward, wherever he slots into the lineup, Baldelli expects the switch-hitter's veteran approach to play well in a Twins lineup full of homer hitters like C.J. Cron, Sano, Nelson Cruz and Jonathan Schoop.

"He is a focal point for us, but he also does it in a very complementary way because he complements the rest of the guys on this team so well," Baldelli said. "Truthfully, almost any team that he's on with the skill set that he has -- he complements any situation that he's in, because when you can do that many things and you offer that kind of approach at the plate, you can have guys who go up there and hit the ball over the fence and take big swings."

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.