With six home runs and 43 RBIs heading into Thursday’s game, the Red Sox first baseman hasn’t come close to his normal pace. At this point last season, Gonzalez had clobbered 16 homers, which resulted in an invite to the Home Run Derby.
Despite the lack of offensive production, Gonzalez has taken the blows in stride, contributing to the team with sacrifices. It started during interleague play, when Gonzalez initially moved to right field to compensate for injuries to the outfield.
The altruistic attitude continued against American League competition, when the first baseman stayed in the outfield to allow Kevin Youkilis and Will Middlebrooks to remain in the same lineup. All in all, Gonzalez played 18 games in right.
But in Wednesday’s 10-4 win over the Blue Jays, his unselfishness was rewarded once again. After being moved down in the order –– to fifth behind Cody Ross –– Gonzalez rebounded by collecting two hits and three RBIs to key the surge.
It wasn’t the first time that Gonzalez has been slotted lower in the lineup. In the past month, he’s occasionally batted in the six hole, typically after Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Youkilis –– before Youk was shipped to the White Sox.
Amid the constant changes, Gonzalez has never complained. As a perennial All-Star, he could have voiced his displeasure at the treatment. After Wednesday’s game, however, he revealed the reason for his patience.
“It’s the name on the starting lineup, that’s all that matters,” Gonzalez said. “Somebody can get mad if they’re hitting eighth and they feel like they should be hitting somewhere else, but you never know. That eighth spot might be the opportunity to drive in the most runs that game.”
That was the case during the homestand at Fenway Park. Over nine games, Gonzalez tallied 12 hits –– including four games with multiple hits –– to raise his average to .269.
The positive approach hasn’t gone unnoticed. Saltalamacchia marveled at Gonzalez’s ability to juggle the change in responsibilities and still post up above average numbers.
“I wish I could struggle and still hit [.260],” Saltalamacchia said, days before Gonzalez lifted his average up.
While the season hasn’t gone according to plan, Gonzalez still has time to turn it around. Either way, the team’s success is a testament to Gonzalez’s willingness to swallow his pride and adjust to changes.
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