HOUSTON -- Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez enters the 2012 regular season quietly, the way he prefers it. Last year, he was a freshly anointed star, having signed a seven-year, $80 million contract. The numbers were still strong -- .295 average, 26 home runs and 92 RBIs -- but there was an early slump, then repeated injuries to his right wrist after he found his groove. Gonzalez ended up playing just 127 games. Even more, Gonzalez played all three outfield positions with distinction, but because he didn't play any of them regularly enough, he was hurt in the Rawlings Gold Glove Award voting and didn't win one, after winning it the previous year.
Gonzalez, 26, hit .259 with a home run, 16 RBIs and three doubles in Spring Training, but most of the time he was working on an opposite-field stroke and not attempting to crush the inside pitch the way he does during the regular season. Not being in the media's eye all the time -- the bigger lineup story was the addition of several veterans to solidify the order -- gave him a chance to work on his stroke. "It's exciting when you play your first game," Gonzalez said. "We all want to do well, we want to make this team better. I'm going to try to stay healthy, play as much as I can, stay on the field." Gonzalez began the 2011 season in right, moved to center when Dexter Fowler was demoted in the middle of the year, and wound up playing more in left than anywhere else. The injuries occurred when he crashed into the wall in center and in right, both times at Coors Field. Keeping him in one position could reduce the injury risk because he can familiarize himself with one position, not only at home but in other ballparks, too.