While Adrian Gonzalez‘s bat hasn’t exactly lit up the world yet this spring, the first baseman will have every opportunity to prove he can turn things around.
With Dominic Smith injured and missing all but one Spring Training game so far, it appears Gonzalez has already won the job for Opening Day.
Gonzalez hit just .242/.287/.355 in 252 plate appearances last season while being hampered by injuries, but believes he has some juice left in the tank to be a productive Major Leaguer again, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.
“As a veteran guy I am not going into spring training to try to impress people, I am trying to work on things,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez was traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Atlanta Braves this offseason, who subsequently cut bait with him, leaving him a free agent. While the Mets signed him to the league minimum, he is earning $22.3 million from the final year of his contract.
The 35-year-old insists he is fine physically and said he always gets off to a slow start in Spring Training.
“I think he’s just not totally comfortable at the plate yet,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “The good part is he is probably going to get another 30 at-bats before the end of spring and he’s a professional hitter. I think his approach is good.”
However, Callaway has raved about his defense thus far.
“He looks amazing,” Callaway said. “He slows it down, great fielder, picks balls at first. You saw the [Amed] Rosario throw early in camp where it was kind of up and [Gonzalez] just made it look easy.”
Despite his struggles last year, veterans on the Mets like Jay Bruce still see him as an All-Star caliber player and another veteran presence who can make a difference in the clubhouse.
“This guy is a marquee offensive player and he’s got Gold Gloves at first base,” Bruce said. “He is a guy who has been through a lot, learned how to take care of himself. He’s had some injuries, he’s a pro.
“He’s bilingual, which maybe sounds funny, but it means a lot. We have one of the best young prospects in the game [Rosario] playing shortstop every day and to have someone like Adrian Gonzalez there to kind of assist him along the way is really important.”
Former Met, Justin Turner, played with Gonzalez in Los Angeles and talked the Mets organization up, which helped the decision to sign with New York easier.
“He said everything was great about the organization and that made the decision easier for me,” Gonzalez said.
With that being said, Gonzalez is on a mission to prove he’s still the player he once was.
“The first five games I went up there and took a strike every at-bat, unless I got to 2-0, and that is not something I would normally do in the regular season,” Gonzalez said. “You do things that you are doing to get right for the season that might not play in the box score.
“Being on a new team you do want to impress, you do want to put up good numbers so there is security especially, there is no articles being written about it. People are going to write things like that, so I know what I can do. I hope the internal people or the people that are here on an everyday basis understand that and take that into consideration.”