DENVER -- Carlos Gonzalez won a Gold Glove in 2010 while splitting time at three outfield positions. He made 55 starts in center, 51 in left, and 34 in right.
Nevertheless, Rockies manager Jim Tracy expected to use him exclusively in left field this season, taking the demands of center off his plate while relying on another Gold-Glove-caliber fielder, Dexter Fowler, to patrol the expansive green of Coors Field's center field.
But when Fowler hit the disabled list in early June with an abdominal strain, "CarGo" returned to center field and the leadoff spot in the order, hitting .358 (29-for-81) with a .617 slugging percentage since, entering Tuesday's opener with the White Sox. A Silver Slugger winner last season, the moves have given a 33-point jolt to Gonzalez's batting average.
"If it did anything, [leading Gonzalez off] heightened the awareness of something that we were talking to him an awful lot about, and that's the fact that, 'You know how good a hitter you are when you make the other team throw the ball over the plate?'" Tracy said. "It also added thought process for me with Jason Giambi sitting over here on the bench, having to very keenly pick his spot, knowing that you don't want to just send him up there and just have the other [manager walk him].
"You've got a runner on second base that represent the tying run, and you send Jason Giambi up there to hit [for the pitcher] with first base open. You want to walk him and put the go-ahead run on and pitch to Carlos Gonzalez? I'm OK with that. I'm good with that."
Though Gonzalez and Fowler make a very good tandem while roaming the outfield together, Tracy had few qualms about moving the former back to center.
"He's just a terrific outfielder. Period," Tracy said. "It doesn't matter where you play him. He's a terrific outfielder. One of the best in the game. He's a Gold Glove winner. Whenever you fill out your ballot, at whatever position you want to put him at in the outfield, you won't be wrong."