Despite his strong performance on Saturday, Gonzalez and the Rockies were especially sick about his first at-bat in that game.
With two on and Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton struggling, Gonzalez swung at a 3-0 sinker that was darting out of the strike zone and grounded into a double play. A run scored, but Gonzalez's at-bat effectively killed the rally.
"That was not smart of me to swing at a sinker down and away and running to the ground," Gonzalez said. "If I want to swing 3-0, everybody knows I have to wait for a good pitch and drive it to the outfield, at least, and not end up hitting a ground ball for a double play. I'm not one of those guys who hit a lot of double-play ground balls, but I can't do it in that situation."
For those used to youth coaches giving "take" signs in such a situation -- and woe be unto a player who swings -- this is different. Gonzalez won the National League batting title last year and is the talented sort who shouldn't be bound by convention. If a pitcher is going to guide a pitch into the strike zone, a hitter of Gonzalez's caliber is sometimes free to make him pay, regardless of the count.
Gonzalez put two 3-0 pitches in play last year and doubled once, so manager Jim Tracy has freed Gonzalez, along with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, to make such decisions.
To maintain that freedom, though, Gonzalez needs to make sure the pitch is more hittable than the one Morton threw Saturday. Tracy said he discussed it with Gonzalez, without placing limitations on a player who "can hit one into the Allegheny River and break somebody's heart."
Tracy said he reserves the right to revoke the green light, but jumping a player the first time he decides incorrectly is not the proper way to teach.
"It's very easy to present, because of the consistency of the message from Day 1 of Spring Training," Tracy said. "All we have been doing is assuming nothing around here and teaching. But in order to teach, you have to create an opportunity to see if your player needs to be further educated and understands the situation.
"[You tell him,] 'Look, we played 14 innings the night before. They didn't have a lot of bullpen. We didn't have a lot of bullpen last night. Charlie Morton is struggling to get the ball in the strike zone. If, in fact, you're walked, we have a bases-loaded, no-out situation with the shortstop coming up to hit ...'
"The message is received a lot better if you give the player an opportunity to make a decision for himself, instead of just immediately taking everything out of his hands."
Gonzalez said there is no guarantee that the next time he swings at a 3-0 pitch, he'll crush it, but he'll be more selective.
"We're not hitting machines," Gonzalez said. "But I can't be doing that 3-0."