Gonzalez proving himself with his glove
Second baseman refocuses from offense to defense
JUPITER, Fla. -- Edgar Gonzalez is working with Cardinals infield coach Jose Oquendo every day -- not only on his defense, but on his mindset as well.
Gonzalez, 28, has established at multiple stops throughout the Minor Leagues that he can hit. He carries a lifetime mark of .295/.375/.446 (average/on-base/slugging) in nearly 2,500 Minor League at-bats. The issue is his defense. If Gonzalez can establish that he's a big league-caliber second baseman, he'll be a big leaguer sooner than later.
So he's working diligently with Oquendo, one of baseball's best infield coaches. He's improving his technique at the keystone, while also trying to change the way he looks at things.
"Every day I work a lot with him," said Gonzalez. "Every time he asks me, 'How did it go?' I never answer, 'I went 1-for-3.' I always tell him, 'I did this defensively.' Because he wants me to change my thinking. He knows what I can do with the bat."
It's little secret what Gonzalez can do with the bat. The older brother of Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Edgar Gonzalez is hitting this spring like he's always hit.
He's taking good at-bats, hitting line drives and producing occasional power. So the elder Gonzalez is still around in camp, after many non-roster invitees have been sent out. Gonzalez is expected to head to Triple-A before too long as well, but he's drawing notice for a possible future callup.
Just like little brother always knew he could.
"I'm very excited for him," said Adrian Gonzalez, who enjoyed a breakout year in 2006. "He's finally getting a chance to be looked at. I'm glad he's been able to do it in camp where everyone can see. He did it in winter ball in Mexico, they downplayed it. He did it in the Caribbean World Series, they downplayed it. He did it in Triple-A, they downplayed it.
"I'm excited for the fact that he's showing what he's capable of doing and that, hopefully, he'll get a chance during the year."
Edgar and Adrian Gonzalez talk virtually every day. Though younger brother is thriving while older brother is still just trying to make the show, they remain each other's biggest fans.
"We talk hitting, family, we talk everything," Edgar Gonzalez said. "He's rooting for me. He tells me, 'If I get a shot, I'll be able to do it. I've just got to get a shot.' I get more excited for him, and he gets more excited for me."
Following a 1-for-2 game on Wednesday, Gonzalez is at 8-for-21 (.381) for the spring with three home runs, four walks and three strikeouts. Unfortunately, he also committed his third error in 55 spring innings, meaning he's reinforced both halves of his reputation -- terrific bat, questionable glove.
Gonzalez may be a 'tweener' -- great bat for second base, but not a good enough glove -- but he's not willing to concede that. He points to success in the field in winter ball, where he was one of the Mexican Pacific League's steadiest defenders at second. The trick will be putting the offense together with the defense in the U.S.
"I have some stuff that I can work on, on defense," he said. "I know that. But I know what I can do on defense. This year in Mexico, I had a really good year defensively. I only made two errors in the whole season. I won the Gold Glove. So I know what I can do. I'm a little disappointed that I haven't shown what I can do."
With three middle infielders set on the Cardinals roster, Gonzalez is ticketed for Triple-A Memphis. But he's still in camp, and he's shown enough that he will be considered if an opening arises during the season.
"If he had [defense] figured out, he'd already be in the big leagues," said manager Tony La Russa. "So there's room for him to continue to improve. He takes the at-bats of a guy who's got a chance to hit. He's opened some eyes. He'll go down and play and we'll see what he makes of the opportunity."
Few in the Cardinals organization had actually seen Gonzalez hit before camp started. They could look at the stat lines, and they saw the history of a hitter -- capped by a ridiculous .392/.473/.580 showing in 143 at-bats with Triple-A Albuquerque at the end of last year.
"I had heard he could hit," said hitting coach Hal McRae. "I didn't pay that much attention, but he's proving now that he can swing the bat well."
The Cardinals are Gonzalez's fifth organization in five seasons. After beginning his career as a Devil Rays draftee, he was taken in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft and played in the Rangers system in 2004. Selected again following 2004, he spent the '05 season in the Nationals system -- hitting .354 in 23 games at Triple-A New Orleans at year's end. Following that, and a big winter, Gonzalez thought he'd get a real chance with Washington.
Instead, he was released at the end of camp in 2006, and signed with the Marlins. Starting at Class A Jupiter, he hit and hit and hit at three levels, finishing with a flourish at Albuquerque. A free agent after 2006, he joined the Cardinals.
"That season (2006) got me a lot of offers this offseason," he said. "I got a lot of offers, but I came to the Cardinals because that seemed like the team that really wanted me. And that's what I wanted to do -- somebody that wanted me instead of somebody who would pay me more money. I wanted somebody who wanted me because I knew I had a better shot."
So he'll keep hitting, keep listening to Oquendo and working on his defense, and keep waiting for his big league chance to come.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.