08/27/11 4:22 PM EST
CarGo living up to expectations for Rox
By David Ely / Special to MLB.com
On Friday he ripped the first pitch he saw from Dodgers starter Ted Lilly for a 448-foot solo home run that just missed clearing Dodger Stadium's right field bleachers by four rows. The home run extended Gonzalez's hitting streak to 13 games and ran his RBI streak to 10 games, tying Vinny Castilla for the club record.
Gonzalez is hitting .360 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs during his recent tear.
This is the level of production the Rockies expected out of Gonzalez when they locked up the young outfielder through the 2017 season with a seven-year, $80 million contract this past winter -- the fourth-largest deal in Rockies history -- following a season in which he hit .336 with 34 home runs and 117 RBIs while finishing third in the NL MVP race.
But Gonzalez struggled out of the gate this year, seeing his average dip to .214 on April 26. Colorado manager Jim Tracy said a portion of Gonzalez's poor start could be attributed to the pressures associated with the new contract.
"I think he was out to prove his worth in relation to what took place this past winter. He went about it in the wrong way," Tracy said. "As a result of going about it in that manner, he developed a strike zone that was very similar to the one that he had when he first showed up in 2009."
It didn't take long for Gonzalez to make the necessary adjustments and he hit .316 over the next two months of the season. But on July 3 he injured his right wrist when he crashed into the outfield fence in Kansas City and three weeks later he was on the DL after re-aggravating the injury during a game against the Braves.
"He runs face first into the wall against the Kansas City Royals. Now we start to deal with the wrist again," Tracy said. "Takes eight or nine days for that. Then he shows back up and it takes five or six to get him back going again. It's starting to look like, 'OK, here it goes' and he takes a swing and he's running over by our dugout in all kinds of pain."
Gonzalez returned from the DL on Aug. 6 and soon showed what he's capable of when fully healthy and in a consistent routine.
"I really believe that it was simply a matter of getting him to the point where it was complete normalcy to his day from one game to the next," Tracy said. "This obviously is the Carlos Gonzalez that's been well advertised; that's going to be around here for a long period of time."
Third basemen need to step up play
LOS ANGELES -- As Jim Tracy put it Saturday, third base has been somewhat of a revolving door for the Rockies this season.
Ian Stewart was the Opening Day starter at third and the Rockies hoped the 26-year-old would rise to the occasion and claim the position as his own. Stewart flopped as a starter, however, hitting .156 in 48 games.
Stewart currently is working things out in Triple-A Colorado Springs, and the Rockies have struggled to find an everyday solution at third ever since.
"We wanted Ian Stewart to grab that position and say, 'Hey, it's mine.' That's what we wanted," Tracy said. "[It's] safe to say that we've auditioned a number of different people over there and that's not where we want it to be at 132 games into the season."
Ty Wigginton, Jonathan Herrera, Chris Nelson and recently acquired Kevin Kouzmanoff have all seen action at third, but the position remains an offensive albatross on the Rockies lineup.
Rockies third basemen are hitting a combined .209 with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs this season.
"We're waiting for someone to step up offensively and address that situation because obviously it's very necessary as far as our lineup structure is concerned," Tracy said. "You want to feel like you've got a very competent offensive player hitting behind Todd Helton."
Left fielder Seth Smith was in the six-hole for the Rockies on Saturday, while Kouzmanoff started at third and hit seventh.
David Ely is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.