GOODYEAR, ARIZ. — The question surrounds just about every Colorado Rockies hitter like a shroud when they join a new team.
Was it just Coors Field, or can this guy really hit?
The question, at least, is valid when looking at a hitter with the profile and splits of outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who officially joined the Indians on Tuesday on a minor-league deal that includes a non-roster invitation to camp.
Last season, Gonzalez posted an OPS of .941 at Coors Field, but it dropped to .663 on the road. That trend rings true for his career numbers as well — .974 at Coors Field, .728 on the road.
Obviously, the ball jumps off the bat and offense is amped up when you’re just under a mile above sea level. But, as Gonzalez gets set to join the Indians and begin the next chapter of his career, he says that isn’t the whole story.
The ball, in a number of ways, behaves differently. Breaking pitches from the same pitcher might not break the same at Coors Field as they would in, say, Progressive Field or Dodger Stadium. You might not feel the same way as you would anywhere else. It’s a constant adjustment that makes going on the road challenging, aside from the ball not flying as far as it would in Colorado.
Gonzalez said at the Indians’ facility in Goodyear, Ariz., on Tuesday that it has bothered him in the past when Coors Field was given the credit for a player’s offensive production. There’s more to it when explaining such severe splits.
"I’ve seen some great players over the years that can hit anywhere, but, people don’t understand how difficult it is to go play on the road when you’re playing at Coors Field,” Gonzalez said. “You play in the altitude, your body doesn’t feel the same. The ball obviously doesn’t do the same thing it does on the road. So it’s a pretty good challenge for a player. Sometimes you face a guy and you see his curveball and then you go on the road and you think it’s going to do the same thing and it ends up doing something different. So you have to make those adjustments.
“But I have no doubt that anybody can have a productive year playing in a different stadium. So, it’s all about taking the adjustments and feeling comfortable and staying in one spot for a long period of time.”
The Indians want to give Gonzalez plenty of time to prepare for the season before they need to make a decision with him. He has an April 20 opt-out clause in his contract. He has continued to work out and do what he can at home, but it’s difficult to have his swing ready without being able to face major-league quality pitching until now.
“I feel healthy, I feel strong, I just want to have at-bats and show them what kind of player I am and what I can bring to the table,” Gonzalez said. “That’s what I wanted to do right now, I’m just going to follow whatever they want me to do and just prepare myself for whenever it’s my time to go play.”
Gonzalez said he had two offers to consider: one from the San Francisco Giants and one from the Indians. And due to his goals of playing for a World Series contender and getting out of the National League, it made for an easy decision. Gonzalez said he told his agent that if the Indians were interested, he’d be ready to pursue that opportunity.
“Well, looking at the roster, the past and this organization, I think it was a pretty easy decision,” Gonzalez said. “This is a team that not too long ago was playing in the World Series. And as a baseball player, that’s everybody’s dream. You want to be on that stage, in that position to win a championship. This team is still in that category.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.