7/9/2014 4:00 P.M. ET
CarGo to shift to right field upon return to Rockies
Weiss will 'mix and match' four outfielders in other two spots
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
DENVER -- Rockies star Carlos Gonzalez will move to right field when he returns to the lineup Friday night against the Twins, manager Walt Weiss announced Wednesday.
Gonzalez, who hasn't played in the Majors since June 3 because of a benign tumor in his left index finger that required surgery, played all three outfield positions from when he broke in with the Athletics in 2008-11, then switched to left exclusively in '12. But Weiss believes Gonzalez fits in right on the current roster.
Weiss will juggle All-Star Charlie Blackmon, Drew Stubbs, Corey Dickerson and Brandon Barnes at the other outfield spots. By putting Gonzalez in right, the Rockies will be more comfortable when they use Dickerson, who has batted .327 in regular time in Gonzalez's absence, but has minimal experience in right (four games last season, with his only start there being his Major League debut). Stubbs (.295 entering Wednesday's finale) also has earned increased opportunity.
Gonzalez, who has won three Rawlings Gold Glove Awards (one when it was for overall outfield play, the last two since the winners were determined by position), has played right in his first two injury rehab games for Triple-A Colorado Springs.
"He's a guy that can play anywhere out there," Weiss said. "He's a very talented outfielder, and he has played all three."
Gonzalez's arm would be a plus in right, where he can discourage runners from going first-to-third on singles.
Even in left, Gonalez has remained one of the top outfielders in the game in assists, and he will be called upon more often in right. He played left because of the spaciousness of Coors Field, and concerns about injuries led Gonzalez and then-Rockies manager Jim Tracy to decide that playing multiple outfield positions was not a favorable option. Before this season, Weiss toyed with the idea of playing Gonzalez in center, but he scrapped it before Spring Training workouts began.
"He profiles well as a right fielder, prototypical, really," said Weiss, who said he doesn't want to shift Gonzalez from position to position. "But with the size of our outfield, there's a case for him to be roaming that spacious left field and left-center, too."
Stubbs and Blackmon are center fielders by trade. Blackmon has looked more comfortable in right and center, but Weiss has confidence in his ability to play all three spots. Barnes, the team's top pinch-hitter, can also play all three.
"I'll have to go back to mixing and matching, and I'll find at-bats for everybody," Weiss said. "But it's not quite as tough as it was when we started the season [with six outfielders, including 2013 All-Star Michael Cuddyer, who is out with a shoulder injury], because we still have one guy down in 'Cuddy.'"
Cuddyer is due for an MRI on his fractured shoulder on July 21. Even if it's healing properly, he is not due back until late August. Any problem on the MRI could make it impossible for him to return by season's end.
Before going on the disabled list, Gonzalez struggled off and on with the finger issue, but he also dealt with left knee tendinitis. The injuries combined to produce a disappointing .255 batting average with eight home runs and 31 RBIs. The time out has allowed Gonzalez's knee to heal, Weiss said.
"He mentioned that to me before he left [for the rehab assignment]," Weiss said. "He feels like it's helped his knee. His knee feels a lot better. Yeah, it is a silver lining.
"Realistically, you're not going to come off a three-game rehab and be in baseball shape -- not midseason form. Doesn't mean you can't be effective and help the team win games."