Photo by Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
By Rich Mancuso
Carlos Gonzalez sprained an ankle Wednesday coming out of the batter’s box in the seventh inning and left the game as his Colorado Rockies team had a big lead over the Dodgers. Before that, “Gonzo” hit two home runs, his 19th multi-home run game of his career.
Yes, when Gonzalez is healthy and with other top run producers in the lineup, the Rockies are that much better and it shows in the latest standings of the National League central. The Rockies, behind his 23 home runs are within three games of the second wild card spot and moved a game over the .500 mark for the first time since May 18th.
“I hope that tomorrow I will feel a little bit better,’ he said. “If I feel a little better I’ll be good enough to play. Just tape it and go out there and have fun with my team.” However, the injury prone 30-year old native of Maracaibo Venezuela, who resides in Orlando Florida during the offseason does not expect to miss much playing time.
He has MVP numbers. The issue, has been those injuries that limited him to a career low 70 games in 2014, due to a surgery to repair a left patellar tear to the knee, And there was surgery to remove a tumor from his left index finger.
Gonzalez was a frequent name mentioned during trade talk last year, and before the recent trading deadline. Though an offensive threat with a career high 40 home runs and a second Silver Slugger Award, and a good defensive outfielder, the opposing general managers stayed away because of that injury bug.
At one point last year, and at the trading deadline, both the New York Yankees and Mets were contemplating packages to bring him to the Big Apple. The feeling was, Gonzalez was the bat they needed in the lineup, but the negative side was how healthy can he be?
Said another reputed and longtime NL scout, “You put Gonzalez in the lineup and that changes the entire dimension of a team. The one difference is keeping him healthy.” And that has been the difference as to why Gonzalez is still in Colorado, a team that is more than content he is still in their lineup and in contention for a postseason spot in October.
“His tools are elite,” said Rockies manager Walt Weiss.
Gonzalez makes the manager’s lineup that much better with production also coming from Nolan Arenado, Mark Reynolds and DJ LeMahieu. The potential Rookie of the Year, Trevor Story had possible season ending surgery to his left thumb and hit a National League leading 27 home runs before getting injured last week.
So if the Rockies want to stay in the race for a wild card, there has to be a healthy Carlos Gonzalez in their lineup everyday in their final 57 games. This latest setback hopefully will not keep him on the shelf that long and hinder the ability to hit another home run ball.
A three-time All-Star this season, Gonzalez was picked to play in the game last month in San Diego, It was deserving, and Gonzalez was content and happy.
“Sometimes we concentrate on putting up numbers and proving things to other people,” he said last week when the Rockies visited Citi Field and swept a three-game series from the Mets. “But you have to prove it to yourself sometimes. Remind yourself that you’re a great player.”
In 2010, Gonzalez became the fifth Rockies player to win a batting title with a .336 batting average, and last year when healthy the second half numbers were 27 of 40 home runs in the second half, 49 runs, nine doubles, a triple and 62 RBI.
If those second half numbers can be as close, or even duplicated, and if Gonzalez does not miss any significant time with this latest injury, the Rockies have that possibility of passing the Cardinals in the wild card standings.
His team has the best record in baseball since the all-star break, and no doubt the offense of “Gonzo” is a contributing factor. Against the Mets he hit one of those huge home runs, and it came after a brief drought.
“It’s been awhile since I hit the last one,” he said. “We all believe in ourselves. We had a rough first half now things are looking better. We are pulling for each other and not thinking about ourselves. “
He added: “I just need to stay healthy.” Yes, numbers are not important, but a healthy “Gonzo” is, if the Rockies have those goals on their first postseason since 2009.