If that question were asked even three weeks ago, the presence of an imposing 6-foot-2 first baseman on the infield at Fenway Park probably wouldn't have been confirmation enough. But 23 games and 90 at bats later, the real Adrian Gonzalez has finally resurfaced in the Red Sox clubhouse.
He may not have been around to chat with the media after Wednesday night's 10-1 blowout against the White Sox, but Gonzalez certainly made his presence felt with a performance more reminiscent of an earlier time.
"It looks like the real Adrian Gonzalez," manager Bobby Valentine exclaimed after the game. "He looks like he's on, right now."
Gonzalez went 3-for-4 against Chicago on Wednesday, but the most impressive part of his night was not returning his average to above .295 for the first time since April 28. Rather it was Adrian's impressive show of power on a fourth-inning home run that stole the show. Gonzo followed No. 3 hitter Cody Ross' lead on Wednesday, belting a lame-duck fastball from White Sox starter Pedro Hernandez 380 feet over the Green Monster.
The bomb gives Gonzalez eight homers on the season and two in the past three games. It's a small sample size, but while most fans focus on Gonzalez recording a hit in 22 of the past 23 games — the lone exception being a flu-infested 0-for-1 in two innings before the break — the real story lies in the return of his power stroke.
Ross, who went 3-for-5 with two home runs and damn near a third in the win, was the star of the show on Wednesday. But as Gonzalez continues on his current tear and eases into the powerful punch that he's lacked for much of the season, this series will be remembered as the catalyst. Even Ross is impressed with the way Gonzalez has continued to swing the bat.
"He's probably one of the hottest hitters in the game right now," Ross said of Gonzalez. "It seems like he's got that confidence back, and that swag back that I've seen for years."
That "swag," to which Ross refers, is the same ability that Gonzalez showed wile hitting 30-plus home runs in four straight seasons with the Padres — a difficult feat to accomplish while playing 81 games in Petco Park. But Ross fondly remembers his time watching Gonzalez from the opposing dugout in San Diego, and admiring the left-handed slugger's ability to make such power look so easy.
"I've seen that swing a lot," Ross said. "He used to hit balls out to left field at Petco [Park], and for right-handed hitters it's tough to hit it out. And he used to just flip them out over there. And now, he's really using that [Green Monster] to his advantage and letting it travel."
Gonzalez started this season on a bit of a cold streak, at least in terms of his power numbers. But it appears the power may have turned back on.
While he may not finish the year with 30 home runs like many had hoped entering this season, a cool 25 is still a distinct possibility. And the power is certainly a plus, but the epic return of the guy slated to be the future of the franchise is definitely the most important feature.
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