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Big hurt: Healthy days hard to come by for CarGo

Rockies outfielder pressing on in pain, but injury toll 'is just out of control'

Big hurt: Healthy days hard to come by for CarGo

DENVER -- Welcome to Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez's year of pain.

He had his appendix removed in January. In June, he had a tumor removed from his left index finger that -- judging from the pictures on his smart phone -- looked exactly how head trainer Keith Dugger described it: "a fatty mass with tentacles."

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His left knee smarts from tendinitis, as well as a crash into the wall in foul ground at Wrigley Field last Tuesday night. His right ankle, already tender from twisting it at home a little more than a week ago, really hurts after he made a catch while sliding into a wall in foul ground at Comerica Park on Friday night.

Still, none of that compares to the almost-daily hospital visits that have had nothing to do with him. He and his wife, Indonesia, welcomed twin daughters, Carlota and Genova, on June 13 after 30 difficult weeks. But the daily hospital visits continue.

"When you have a problem , an injury, and you don't have anything else, you can concentrate on that problem," Gonzalez said last week at Wrigley, between wall crashes. "But there are a lot of things going on that are more important than anything. Family is more important, first of all.

"The bigger one is at home. The other one is in the hospital. I think she's going to get home, in a week or two. I can't wait. It's a tough routine. Go to the hospital before I go to the ballpark. After the game, at midnight, I go there and see my baby. It's hard."

Gonzalez, 28, also hurts in ways measurable on the stat sheet -- a career-low .237 with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs while appearing in 66 of the team's 111 games but none since Friday.

Gonzalez's problems began just more than a year ago. Through July 7 -- the day Gonzalez suffered a strained ligament in his right middle finger -- he was hitting .304 and leading the National League in home runs with 24, and extra-base hits with 52. But after the injury, he played just 24 games and hit two home runs and one double.

"Last year I played healthy for half the season," he said. "This year I haven't played one week healthy. Even the year didn't start well. I had the appendix removed. It was like throwing everything in the garbage and starting from zero.

"In Spring Training, I was hitting good, but the pain was there and then my finger started really swelling. Then I did what I always do. I tried to stay quiet and play through it, and things got worse. My hands hurt, knees were bad. Everything is just out of control."

The tumor in the finger forced Gonzalez from a June 3 game, and he didn't return until July 11. In 14 games since, he has hit .170 (9-for-53) with 21 strikeouts. He admits his timing has been off, but when an All-Star in his prime struggles so mightily, it's clear health is every bit as much the issue.

"It comes and goes," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He's got the knee that he's dealt with, tendinitis, and obviously all the hand issues he's had since last year -- probably the worst thing to have as a hitter."

Weiss said the pain in Gonzalez's hands, which have had to compensate for the finger issues, limits his ability to take extra batting practice. Former Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs, an analyst on the team's games on Root Sports Rocky Mountain, said the left knee is as big an issue, if not bigger.

The left-handed-hitting Gonzalez's swing starts with a high kick of the right leg, timed with the pitcher's leg kick, which is timed with the pitcher's motion. This makes the left leg his "load-bearing leg," as Spilborghs calls it. But because pain limits the time Gonzalez can spend perched on the leg, he falls forward, which moves his head, which affects his ability to see the pitch and time his swing.

Gonzalez said his nature is to push ahead, but sometimes he wonders.

"Sometimes I want to continue to play because I want to help this club and I want to finish strong," he said. "Sometimes I think I've had enough. Sometimes you can't wait to get to the offseason and recover. Right now I've just got to concentrate and finish strong."

Under his seven-year deal, Gonzalez is due roughly $3.26 million the rest of this season and $53 million 2015-17. However, these days he is valued more as the .170 hitter he is now than the two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner he is when healthy. The non-waiver Trade Deadline came and went with nary an offer for Gonzalez, who normally would be a target of contending teams.

Gonzalez doesn't mind the industry forgetting who he can be.

"I forgot, too," he said, smiling. "I don't get stuck on the past. All that stuff, batting titles, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, Player of the Year, we don't get paid for that. They already paid me for that. People are paying a ticket to watch me play and go new things on the field.

"It's nice to think about it and it gives you confidence and reminds you how good a player you are. I know the important people around me know that. The manager and front office know that. I'm only 28 years old. The prime years are ahead of me. I've just got to feel good."

Gonzalez believes the pain will go away with rest. The trade rumors that died quickly last month may not leave anytime soon. Reports that the Mets are interested in talking during the winter about him and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, whose strong season has been interrupted by a left hip flexor strain, may only be the beginning.

"I hope I'm here when things get better, because I've been waiting too long," Gonzalez said. "I understand it's a business and whatever happens is not my option, not my choice, but I don't want to put pressure on people. When I signed for seven years, the most important thing for me was to make this team better and win a championship. I know it's been difficult, but it's not over yet."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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