He’s played 1,559 games as a shortstop and one as first basemen. There needs to be a first time for everything, and on Sunday Alex Gonzalez had his first taste of a season that will see him playing a number of positions around the field.
Agreeing to a $1.5 million dollar contract this year, following an exhaustive search for something more lucrative, the thirty-six year-old Venezuelan native will spend his fifteenth season in the league coming off the bench. It is an unfamiliar predicament for Gonzalez, who has started more than 10,000 innings since the late nineties, but one that had no alternative.
Forced to sit out the remainder of 2012 with a knee injury after just twenty-four starts in Milwaukee, the natural shortstop was replaced by the young Jean Segura soon after. Hoping to find another starting spot elsewhere, Gonzalez spent most of the early months of the off-season in negotiations around the country before finally settling in his home country to play winter ball. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke never broke contact, however, and with good words from South America about his progress, the manager made an offer.
The agreement was not a conventional one for an aging star. A comparatively low salary, and no guarantee of ample playing time, Gonzalez will be expected to fill as many as four positions off the bench in 2013. And, while precedents are few regarding the contract, the parties involved are confident in his abilities.
Gonzalez Happy To Be Playing For The Brewers
Gonzalez was the first to speak about his excitement to be back with the Brewers, regardless of the role. Speaking to reporters following a day of camp earlier this week, Gonzalez said that he appreciates that chance Roenicke has extended, and he intends to do everything he can to help the team succeed. Acknowledging that he has taken a backseat to a younger generation, Gonzalez said he would be healthy and ready to step into any position that he is needed.
For his part, Roenicke admitted that the hire was a calculated gamble, but he considers Gonzalez's experience and character invaluable. Looking for the veteran to help guide Segura through the motions of becoming a major league starter, the manager said he is sure Gonzalez will be excellent insurance for any unexpected injuries or shortcomings from starting infielders. He even foreshadowed the likelihood that Gonzalez takes turns stepping into his old starting position for the twenty-three year-old Segura, who, with less than fifty outings in the majors, won't be asked to play daily.
Despite the confidence, Gonzalez's first assignment at first base on Sunday was not a welcome one. Losing starter Mat Gamal to injury early in camp, Roenicke was forced to play Gonzalez in his place. The outing went well, though the manager will not settle for a near forty year-old starter at the key base.
Beyond the temporary assignment at first, and the occasional start at shortstop, most of Gonzalez's time will be spent in the dugout. Barring any mishaps with third basemen Aramis Ramirez or second basemen Rickie Weeks, his role will be mainly as a veteran adviser.