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AmarilloRed
01-24-2009, 10:10 PM
Gonzalez healthy for Spring Training
Shortstop missed 2008 season following left knee surgery

By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com


CINCINNATI -- An examination of Reds shortstop Alex Gonzalez's left knee on Saturday brought some positive news.

Gonzalez, who missed all of the 2008 season with a compression fracture that required surgery, is expected to be fully ready for the start of Spring Training in three weeks.

Reds medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek examined Gonzalez in Miami, Fla.

"Tim put Alex through a series of tests and agility drills and was very pleased with what he saw," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said in a statement released by the team. "We expect Alex to be ready to participate at 100 percent in all drills on Day 1 of Spring Training."

The news should be a relief to the Reds, who were counting on having Gonzalez return to being their everyday shortstop following his lost season. The club does have insurance in infielders Jeff Keppinger and Jerry Hairston Jr., who was re-signed to a one-year contract earlier this month.

Gonzalez will make $5.375 million in 2009 during the final season of a three-year, $14 million contract. There is a $6 million mutual option for 2010 with a $500,000 buyout.

In 2007, Gonzalez batted .272 with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs in 110 games. He is considered one of the better defensive shortstops in the National League, and having him back to combine with double-play partner Brandon Phillips should make Cincinnati's infield much stronger up the middle.

http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090124&content_id=3770248&vkey=news_cin&fext=.jsp&c_id=cin

Gonzalez will help the infield defense. Expect Hairston to get a lot of playing time in left field.

Blitz Dorsey
01-24-2009, 10:12 PM
Wow, we needed some good news. Skeptical it will hold up, but I'll take it for now.

WMR
01-24-2009, 10:30 PM
I'm from Missouri. (not really, but you gotta show me)

I don't believe it, honestly.

marcshoe
01-24-2009, 10:33 PM
I'm from Missouri. (not really, but you gotta show me)

I don't believe it, honestly.


Are you saying that this may not be what it says? That if "win now" isn't literal, then "participate in all drills" might mean that he'll be able to walk without crutches?

Just asking.

OnBaseMachine
01-24-2009, 10:34 PM
It would be huge if Gonzalez could return and play at least average defense and OPS in the .740 area.

WMR
01-24-2009, 10:37 PM
Are you saying that this may not be what it says? That if "win now" isn't literal, then "participate in all drills" might mean that he'll be able to walk without crutches?

Just asking.

:laugh:


:D

Degenerate39
01-24-2009, 10:52 PM
And your #2 hitter of the season is: Seabass

KronoRed
01-24-2009, 11:07 PM
And your #2 hitter of the season is: Seabass

Nah, it'll be Hairston out in LF, Alex will be the 6 hitter, gotta split those lefties ya know.

BCubb2003
01-24-2009, 11:20 PM
Gonzalez's condition will soon be downgraded from healthy to rusty.

oneupper
01-24-2009, 11:53 PM
FWIW, Gonzalez was in Caracas to see his teammates from the Leones take on the Tigres in the Venezuelan Final series.
He reported his condition as being 90%. He said he still had to build up strength in his quadriceps.

RedsManRick
01-25-2009, 12:17 AM
Nah, it'll be Hairston out in LF, Alex will be the 6 hitter, gotta split those lefties ya know.

SS bats second.

mth123
01-25-2009, 01:27 AM
Still to be seen:

1. Will he still be healthy by say, Memorial Day?
2. Will he be any good at all after a season and a half of not playing?
3. Will his range return to even average levels or will the trend of lost range continue (and accelerate) with the injury and inactivity?
4. Will the .793 OPS of 393 AB in 2007 return or will it be the .696, .687, .689 from the three seasons before?

I predict a guy with diminished range (well below average to say the Keppinger level) and about a .690 OPS. A healthy Gonzalez will probably be the best alternative on the team, but he hardly fixes this position. SS play will be more like 2008 than 2007 for the Reds in 2009. A deal for a young SS of the future is still necessary and would be a huge boost if it happened before opening day. I'm skeptical Gonzalez will last beyond the end of May.

remdog
01-25-2009, 01:39 AM
"Gonzalez, who missed all of the 2008 season with a compression fracture that required surgery, is expected to be fully ready for the start of Spring Training in three weeks."

OK. But will he actually be able to play once opening day comes? And at what level?

Rem

KronoRed
01-25-2009, 03:07 AM
SS bats second.

True, but maybe he'll graduate to the 3 spot of respect :D

icehole3
01-25-2009, 07:38 AM
cant believe you guys, you take great news and turn it into a negative, this is why I casually come to this board anymore

Raisor
01-25-2009, 08:22 AM
cant believe you guys, you take great news and turn it into a negative, this is why I casually come to this board anymore

I'm not sure having another sub 700 career OPS guy in the lineup could be considered "great" news.

Asking a guy, coming off a declining defensive year, two years ago, with a major knee injury, to come play defense that we need at a key defensive position and calling it "great" news seems like a stretch.

mth123
01-25-2009, 08:23 AM
cant believe you guys, you take great news and turn it into a negative, this is why I casually come to this board anymore

Not at all. This team needs a SS for the long term and has used the "Gonzalez will be back" line as a reason for not making a move. Of course we were told he was healthy and would be back multiple times last year, his range was in steep decline in 2007 when he last played and now he has a year and a half without playing and in 2007 he put up his career year.

So here are my questions in a different form:

Why should we believe he's really healthy and ready to play after all the times we heard he was ready to be back in the past (including winter ball this off-season)?

Why should we believe he'll hold up when he's coming off such a serious injury and even before this injury wasn't exactly Cal Ripken or Lou Gerhig when it comes to staying in the line-up?

Why should we expect he will be the rangey SS this pitching, speed and defense model of the Cincinnati Reds requires when his range was declining rapidly when we last saw him (and he was nearly was two years younger) and even before he hurt his leg and missed a year and half?

Why should we expect a repeat of his career offensive season from 2007 (achieved with lots of time off BTW) when the three years prior to that he failed to put up an OPS in excess of .700?

I just don't think Gonzalez playing is such great news for anybody but Gonzalez. Whether its Gonzalez, Keppinger or Hairston the team is likely to be playing a range challenged SS who hurts the pitching staff and can't OPS .700. To me its irksome that this organization didn't make a move to bring in a young player to stabilize the position for years to come. If Gonzalez comes all the way back to 2007 levels, then the young player can ease in and be ready when Gonzalez leaves in 2010. If not, the team would have a viable option there for this season. If Gonzalez is healthy, he's likely just another inadequate answer to add to the mix with Keppinger and Hairston. Its not like AGON was an iron man before this injury. This was the year to get the young alternative. There seems to be plenty of decent young SS on the verge of the majors who are blocked or excess around baseball.

Highlifeman21
01-25-2009, 08:39 AM
SS bats second.

... and everyone knows respect bats 3rd, dude.


... who "respect" will be in 2009? Ya got me...

Some leading candidates:
Ramon Hernandez
Jerry Hairston Jr (while not playing SS, cuz then he'd bat 2nd, duh)
Jeff Keppinger (while not playing SS, cuz then he'd bat 2nd, duh)
Brandon Phillips (who am I kidding? He's gonna bat 4th for The Dusty)
Chris Dickerson
Norris Hopper
Jonny Gomes
Laynce Nix


I know who won't bat 3rd in 2009:
Edwin Encarnacion
Joey Votto
Jay Bruce

lollipopcurve
01-25-2009, 09:32 AM
cant believe you guys, you take great news and turn it into a negative

I was thinking the same thing. It's almost comic.

Good news. Even if it takes him awhile to get the rust off, it sure will be nice to have a decent defensive SS at some point this season.

lollipopcurve
01-25-2009, 09:37 AM
This was the year to get the young alternative. There seems to be plenty of decent young SS on the verge of the majors who are blocked or excess around baseball.

Teams don't give up good young "blocked" shortstops. If they did, Escobar would be out of Milwaukee and Andrus would be out of Texas.

Besides, the Reds appear to be lining up Valaika to take a shot at SS by 2010. Makes sense to play the hand they have until then.

Highlifeman21
01-25-2009, 09:40 AM
I was thinking the same thing. It's almost comic.

Good news. Even if it takes him awhile to get the rust off, it sure will be nice to have a decent defensive SS at some point this season.

since you said "at some point this season", I can only interpret that to mean we'll see Paul Janish playing some SS for the Reds in 2009

... b/c the group of Gonzalez, Hairston and Keppinger are not decent defensive SS

I honestly wonder how good Gonzalez will be defensively coming off a knee injury. That kinda injury ya know, hurts your lateral movement, ability to plant and going forward and backward...

Redhook
01-25-2009, 09:45 AM
since you said "at some point this season", I can only interpret that to mean we'll see Paul Janish playing some SS for the Reds in 2009

... b/c the group of Gonzalez, Hairston and Keppinger are not decent defensive SS

I honestly wonder how good Gonzalez will be defensively coming off a knee injury. That kinda injury ya know, hurts your lateral movement, ability to plant and going forward and backward...

I'd prefer to never see Janish again on the field for the Reds. Decent glove, not great, and a putrid bat.

I expect Gonzo to be awful. His range will be worse and I doubt he'll hit much after taking this much time off.

It's just amazing that the Reds are looking for a band-aid solution to man the most important position on the field. Pretty sad.

Raisor
01-25-2009, 09:48 AM
I honestly wonder how good Gonzalez will be defensively coming off a knee injury. That kinda injury ya know, hurts your lateral movement, ability to plant and going forward and backward...

which, when you combine the fact that he was in decline defensivly BEFORE the injury, should put a huge red flag out there.

Plus, and let's not forget, he's got a career OPS under 700.

Walt said earlier in the offseason that the goal was to bring in SS that would be under team control for at least three years. So far he's failed miserably. Having Gonzo back does nothing to mitigate that.

Kc61
01-25-2009, 10:03 AM
If Gonzalez is healthy enough to play shortstop against lefty pitching, that will be a plus. If I recall correctly, his good hitting in 2007 was in large part against lefty pitching.

If Hairston is to play some shortstop (not ideal defensively), then he should play most against righty pitching with Gonzalez against lefty pitching.

westofyou
01-25-2009, 10:31 AM
I was thinking the same thing. It's almost comic.



I was thinking sad myself.

Blitz Dorsey
01-25-2009, 10:36 AM
I wonder what his weight is. He looked a bit "pudgy" to me two years ago and I can't imagine taking a year and a half off from the game has helped that situation. What type of physical condition he is in will certainly have a big impact on this situation.

vaticanplum
01-25-2009, 10:41 AM
I wonder what his weight is. He looked a bit "pudgy" to me two years ago and I can't imagine taking a year and a half off from the game has helped that situation. What type of physical condition he is in will certainly have a big impact on this situation.

if memory serves (and it may not, since it's been such a long time since Gonzalez was regularly part of any fan's consciousness), he's reputed to be a very hard worker. If he's healthy enough to work out and get through spring training, I wouldn't worry about his physical condition. His predisposition to injury after so much time off, yes, but his weight/shape, not so much.

nate
01-25-2009, 10:42 AM
I'd prefer to never see Janish again on the field for the Reds. Decent glove, not great, and a putrid bat.

The right offense could carry that glove and have a pretty good team. Granted, I'm not thinking the offense we have _is_ the right one. I think he's an excellent use of a 25-man roster spot coming off the bench and starting once a week.

WMR
01-25-2009, 10:49 AM
The right offense could carry that glove and have a pretty good team. Granted, I'm not thinking the offense we have _is_ the right one. I think he's an excellent use of a 25-man roster spot coming off the bench and starting once a week.

I agree with what you're typing in a general sense, but is Janish's glove legit? I remember being somewhat underwhelmed at times last season.

Always Red
01-25-2009, 10:51 AM
Good news. Even if it takes him awhile to get the rust off, it sure will be nice to have a decent defensive SS at some point this season.

I agree, it's good news.

If Gonzalez can play an average defensive SS this year, it makes the Reds a lot more versatile, with both Hairston and Keppinger coming off the bench, instead of starting.

Gonzo is not the defensive SS he used to be, but far subpar defensive play at SS (mostly by Kepp and Hairston) since he has been out has plagued this team.

nate
01-25-2009, 10:53 AM
I agree with what you're typing in a general sense, but is Janish's glove legit? I remember being somewhat underwhelmed at times last season.

He had a couple shaky plays but I felt that he had the best range of any recent Reds SS.

Not that that's a high bar!

Highlifeman21
01-25-2009, 11:24 AM
I'd prefer to never see Janish again on the field for the Reds. Decent glove, not great, and a putrid bat.

I expect Gonzo to be awful. His range will be worse and I doubt he'll hit much after taking this much time off.

It's just amazing that the Reds are looking for a band-aid solution to man the most important position on the field. Pretty sad.

Janish lacks a bat, this much is true, but I think some of his defensive woes stemmed from getting to balls other people couldn't/wouldn't and then rushing his throw.

I wish the Reds had gone out and gotten some offense the let us live with Janish as our everyday SS. Unfortunately, they gave us Willy Taveras, and a ST invite to Jonny Gomes and my boy Laynce Nix.

I really wish we had traded Arroyo for a SS this offseason, b/c that would have addressed long-term needs, as opposed to just going with the band-aid solution as you aptly put it.

Highlifeman21
01-25-2009, 11:28 AM
which, when you combine the fact that he was in decline defensivly BEFORE the injury, should put a huge red flag out there.

Plus, and let's not forget, he's got a career OPS under 700.

Walt said earlier in the offseason that the goal was to bring in SS that would be under team control for at least three years. So far he's failed miserably. Having Gonzo back does nothing to mitigate that.

Sweet, that means the top 2 spots in our lineup might struggle to OPS .700 a piece. Super!

Jpup
01-25-2009, 01:04 PM
I still continue to believe that Jeff Keppinger will be the starting shortstop, most of the time, in 2009. Unfortunately, I also believe he will be the best option.

*BaseClogger*
01-25-2009, 03:09 PM
If Gonzalez is healthy enough to play shortstop against lefty pitching, that will be a plus. If I recall correctly, his good hitting in 2007 was in large part against lefty pitching.

If Hairston is to play some shortstop (not ideal defensively), then he should play most against righty pitching with Gonzalez against lefty pitching.

Neither Gonzalez or Hairston has much of a career platoon advantage (they both hit lefties about the same as righties). Since it seems like we are punting the 2009 season, I think it would be best to just play Janish or Keppinger and see what we've got in those two...

Caveat Emperor
01-25-2009, 03:15 PM
I was thinking the same thing. It's almost comic.

Good news. Even if it takes him awhile to get the rust off, it sure will be nice to have a decent defensive SS at some point this season.

I don't think it's comical or sad to have some skepticism about Gonzalez's ability to return with any level of effectiveness this season -- especially considering the fact that his status was so nebulous (he'll be ready / he won't be ready / he needs to rehab in extended spring / he's being shut down) for most of last year.

When you add that skepticism about his health to an already shaky bat, defensive skills that were in decline even before the injury, and then throw in a dash of reality about his current age, it all adds up to a giant "Eh..." from me.

It'd be nice if Gonzalez can come back and play passable defense with an OK bat -- but really, the contract has been a huge waste of money for the Reds and I'm very eager to move on with him.

kpresidente
01-26-2009, 05:26 AM
I don't think it's comical or sad to have some skepticism about Gonzalez's ability to return with any level of effectiveness this season -- especially considering the fact that his status was so nebulous (he'll be ready / he won't be ready / he needs to rehab in extended spring / he's being shut down) for most of last year.

When you add that skepticism about his health to an already shaky bat, defensive skills that were in decline even before the injury, and then throw in a dash of reality about his current age, it all adds up to a giant "Eh..." from me.

It'd be nice if Gonzalez can come back and play passable defense with an OK bat -- but really, the contract has been a huge waste of money for the Reds and I'm very eager to move on with him.

Depends on whether it's a reasonable amount of skepticism. His status was mostly "nebulous" on this board. RedsZone was so certain he was finished, while Jocketty, who actually has access to information about the situation, said he expected Gonzalez to be the starting SS months ago.

Gonzo won't hit like he did in '07, but you can't ignore the park factor either. It wasn't all fluke. A lot of it can be explained coming from Florida to GABP, and he'll be getting the same effect this year. I expect him to be somewhere in the middle between '07 and his numbers with the Marlins.

As far as the lingering effect of the injury, all I can do is shrug my shoulders. Who knows? I'm no doctor, but I'd have to think a broken bone is not something to worry about like ligament or tendon damage. Gonzo's aging, but he's not old. I don't see any reason why, especially with a full year to rehab, he couldn't make a full recovery.

kpresidente
01-26-2009, 05:51 AM
Not at all. This team needs a SS for the long term and has used the "Gonzalez will be back" line as a reason for not making a move. Of course we were told he was healthy and would be back multiple times last year, his range was in steep decline in 2007 when he last played and now he has a year and a half without playing and in 2007 he put up his career year.


Gonzo has one year left on his contract. I don't think anybody can use his status as a reason not to act long-term. However, buying one year has some advantages:

1. We get an extra year to find out what we have in Valaika. I want to know if he can hit AAA pitching. I'll be following Richar as well, to see about a possible platoon, even if I'm alone there. Whatever you think about those guys, there's at least a possibility that we have an in-house solution. Now we have a year to find out for sure.

2. Most of our trade bait is in AA or lower. Guys like Frazier, Alonso, Thompson, etc will probably be ML ready or very nearly so after this year. That means they'll have more value, and we'll be in better position to make a deal. Gotta sell high.

3. The SS market was bad this year. Not horrible, there were people available we could have made a pitch for, but I would have been fairly disappointed if we'd gotten locked into Khalil Greene, for example, as our SS of the future. It's a good gamble that next year will have a better market. For instance, I fully expect Hardy to actually be available next year, rather than just hints and whispers.

Jocketty took the right approach here. Be on the lookout for the right guy, but don't make a desperation move. Next year is when the pressure's on.

mth123
01-26-2009, 06:29 AM
Gonzo has one year left on his contract. I don't think anybody can use his status as a reason not to act long-term. However, buying one year has some advantages:

1. We get an extra year to find out what we have in Valaika. I want to know if he can hit AAA pitching. I'll be following Richar as well, to see about a possible platoon, even if I'm alone there. Whatever you think about those guys, there's at least a possibility that we have an in-house solution. Now we have a year to find out for sure.

2. Most of our trade bait is in AA or lower. Guys like Frazier, Alonso, Thompson, etc will probably be ML ready or very nearly so after this year. That means they'll have more value, and we'll be in better position to make a deal. Gotta sell high.

3. The SS market was bad this year. Not horrible, there were people available we could have made a pitch for, but I would have been fairly disappointed if we'd gotten locked into Khalil Greene, for example, as our SS of the future. It's a good gamble that next year will have a better market. For instance, I fully expect Hardy to actually be available next year, rather than just hints and whispers.

Jocketty took the right approach here. Be on the lookout for the right guy, but don't make a desperation move. Next year is when the pressure's on.

Lollipop is probably right that guys like Andrus and Escobar weren't available, but this team would be better off pursuing other youngsters with defensive skills and some offensive upside. I generally don't like offense first guys like Keppinger or Valaika as the SS. A defense first guy with some offensive upside is the ticket. Paul Janish is the only defense first guy left and his offensive upside is minimal. There are other guys out there who are obtainable. Chin Lung Hu, Ivan Dejesus JR, Robert Andino, Joaquin Arias, M. Izturis or Erick Aybar, Ronny Cedeno and Manny Burris are examples. All blocked and odd men out in their current situation and IMO better options than anything in house. These are guys that can work their way in now and take-over if Gonzalez isn't all the way back. Its not like the team would have to break up the core to get any of them. A minor deal to address this area would have at least showed some effort and added a possibility that we may find our future SS from the mix even if Valaika, Janish and Richar are still in the mix as well. I would have been satisfied with that and if it doesn't pan out try again next off-season. Leaving the left side of the IF as poor defensively as I suspect it will be is not maximizing the value of the starting pitching (especially the young ones). As far as I can tell, starting pitching seems to be the bell cow of this team now with Votto, EdE and Bruce hopefully creating enough offense to scratch out 4 runs a game.

wheels
01-26-2009, 11:10 AM
I want a new shortstop as much as anyone, but Gonzo's in his final contract year.

They have to get something for all of that money, and maybe he can contribute a bit. They aren't just gonna toss him aside if he's healthy enough to take the field.

TRF
01-26-2009, 11:45 AM
I'm not sure having another sub 700 career OPS guy in the lineup could be considered "great" news.

Asking a guy, coming off a declining defensive year, two years ago, with a major knee injury, to come play defense that we need at a key defensive position and calling it "great" news seems like a stretch.

I'll give him a mulligan for 2007 defensively. Standing in the field gives you lots of time to think, and he had a lot to think about in regards to his son's health. At the plate, less time and more focus. He did ok at the plate.

Of all the option available, If AGon is ready, he's the best one. I hope Valaika is MLB ready by mid season, just in case.

WebScorpion
01-26-2009, 12:35 PM
IMHO, Alex Gonzalez being healthy and playing a solid defensive SS is about the only thing that can save this season at ths point. My second wish would be that BOTH Dickerson and Hairston knock the cover off the ball during ST and force Taveras to the 4th OF slot. ...a very expensive 4th OF, but I really think Dickerson is his superior both as a hitter and defender. Either that, or I hope Taveras finally 'get's it' and figures out a way to get on base at a .375-.400 clip. The only problem with that scenario is that I don't think Dickerson will ever hit enough to hold down a left field job. There is SOO much that needs to go right for this team to be competitive it's scary...but they are young and pitching is finally a strength. As a lifetime Reds' fan this is a very foreign feeling...we've never had a team with pitching and defense and tried to eke out enough offense to win. http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-ashamed004.gif (http://www.freesmileys.org)

westofyou
01-26-2009, 12:43 PM
I want to know how thick his body is from waist down, that's my main concern.

wheels
01-26-2009, 12:56 PM
I want to know how thick his body is from waist down, that's my main concern.

If he's doing the right kind of rehab (strength training), his legs will be bigger and stronger than before and his range may very well improve.

Just because a guy's in his thirties doesn't mean he can't get stronger and faster.

Roy Tucker
01-26-2009, 01:00 PM
A positive sign, at least. I was sure he was still going to be gimpy.

Many question marks still exist as to how well he can move/play, but I'll take this for now.

Sure as heck better than "Gonzalez still has some soreness, will be evaluated in 3 weeks". It about this time last year we first started to hear this.

westofyou
01-26-2009, 01:17 PM
If he's doing the right kind of rehab (strength training), his legs will be bigger and stronger than before and his range may very well improve.

Just because a guy's in his thirties doesn't mean he can't get stronger and faster.

I don't want a shortstop with bigger legs, just stronger.

princeton
01-26-2009, 01:23 PM
Just because a guy's in his thirties doesn't mean he can't get stronger and faster.

lots of old guys say this to the young guy ahead of them.

wheels
01-26-2009, 02:41 PM
I don't want a shortstop with bigger legs, just stronger.

You get strong because your muscles grow.

wheels
01-26-2009, 02:42 PM
lots of old guys say this to the young guy ahead of them.

I got stronger and faster at age 34, and I hadn't been a professional athelete previously.

Maybe (probably) I am deluded as well.

westofyou
01-26-2009, 02:46 PM
You get strong because your muscles grow.

Big legs on SS equals limited range, add in a knee problem and a birthday in the 70's and that's trouble.

wheels
01-26-2009, 02:49 PM
Big legs on SS equals limited range, add in a knee problem and a birthday in the 70's and that's trouble.

You're probably right.

Just trying to look for some positives.

TRF
01-26-2009, 03:00 PM
You're probably right.

Just trying to look for some positives.

wrong thread. :)

AmarilloRed
01-26-2009, 06:30 PM
I think he will have a good year offensively and also play good defense this year. That brings up the big question: If it happens, should the Reds pick up his 6 million mutual option in 2010? Valaika could very well be ready by 2010.

BoydsOfSummer
01-26-2009, 06:47 PM
What exactly was/is the problem with his knee? It's been so long I've forgotten.

If he can play with most of his range and crank 20 bombs it sure would helps this team's chances to win 75 games.

wheels
01-26-2009, 07:44 PM
I think he will have a good year offensively and also play good defense this year. That brings up the big question: If it happens, should the Reds pick up his 6 million mutual option in 2010? Valaika could very well be ready by 2010.

No.

Emphatically no.

Anything he gives them will be lightning in a bottle. Let him go after that.

westofyou
01-26-2009, 07:50 PM
No.

Emphatically no.

Anything he gives them will be lightning in a bottle. Let him go after that.
Yep if he has a coyote ugly season I'd hope Walt would chew his arm off to get out of bed with him.

wheels
01-26-2009, 08:33 PM
Yep if he has a coyote ugly season I'd hope Walt would chew his arm off to get out of bed with him.

Whoo Boy...Do I know that feeling.

OnBaseMachine
01-26-2009, 11:00 PM
Gonzalez's addition set to bolster Reds
Shortstop's expected return will offer needed depth to infield

By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- As a team trying to improve defensively, the weekend news that shortstop Alex Gonzalez would be able to fully participate in Spring Training was big for the Reds.

After Gonzalez came down with a fractured left knee near the start of camp last year, it started the spin of a revolving door at shortstop. Injuries ravaged most of Cincinnati's replacements -- from Jeff Keppinger (fractured kneecap) to Jerry Hairston Jr. (fractured thumb, hamstring) and Jolbert Cabrera (dislocated finger). Rookie Paul Janish played fine defensively, but was often overmatched at the plate.

By last summer, Gonzalez needed season-ending microfracture surgery and subsequently never played a game in 2008 for Cincinnati. On Saturday, team medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek examined and cleared Gonzalez to participate at the 100-percent level in all Spring Training drills.

Drills can't simulate game intensity, so any optimism should be tempered until Gonzalez's knee is really tested. But the 31-year-old's expected return would bring some stability and defensive credibility to the Reds at the most important infield position.

"You've seen Gonzalez play, but it's been a while," manager Dusty Baker said last week before Gonzalez was examined. "We'll see how his health is. We'll see if he's the same Alex. We'll see what's there. I'm convinced there's not a whole lot of wear and tear on him if his leg is healthy. I'm sure he's hungry."

When at full strength, Gonzalez has the range to simply get to balls others can't reach.

Although defensive ability is harder to universally quantify than offensive ability, Gonzalez's Revised Zone Rating of .862 was third-best among Major League shortstops in 2007. Revised Zone Rating is the proportion of balls hit into a fielder's zone that are successfully converted into outs. His career range factor per nine innings, an attempted measurement of total chances fielded, is 4.49 -- above the league average of 3.95.

Keppinger was a serviceable replacement, but he lacked Gonzalez's range to stop balls from getting through the infield. His RZR in 2008 was .797 over 880 innings. Hairston logged 271 innings at shortstop and a .776 RZR.

Owner of a .969 career fielding percentage, Gonzalez committed 16 errors over 110 games in 2007 -- up from seven errors in '06 for the Red Sox. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that he simply gets to more groundballs with his expansive range. And some of the miscues could stem from being distracted. His infant son was critically ill in '07, and Gonzalez missed 28 games over three stints on the bereavement list.

With Gonzalez having a double-play partner in 2008 Gold Glove winner Brandon Phillips at second base, the Reds' middle infield should be considered one of the more dynamic pairings in the National League.

Keppinger and Hairston likely have more upside offensively than Gonzalez, who batted .272 with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs for the Reds in 2007. Keppinger, who hit .266 in 121 games last season, will likely rove around all four infield spots this season. Hairston batted .326 with six home runs, 36 RBIs and 15 stolen bases while playing six positions.

If Hairston isn't needed at shortstop, he can join Chris Dickerson and Jonny Gomes for what's expected to be a three-way battle for the vacant left-field spot.

In the third year of a three-year, $14 million contract that will pay $5.375 million in 2009, Gonzalez is facing a pivotal season. His contract contains a $6 million mutual option for '10, but also a $500,000 buyout. The organization has some shortstops rising up in Janish, Reds Minor League Player of the Year Chris Valaika and prospect Todd Frazier.

No longer with Adam Dunn or Ken Griffey Jr., and unable to land a proven slugger for left field this winter, finding ample run production could be a big question mark for the Reds this season.

That means an increased onus could be placed on pitching and defense -- and for that to work, Gonzalez's glove is a required presence.

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