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Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
Patience pays off for Giants infielder Gonzalez
Foreign ballplayers take to Japan in many different ways. Some, like first-year Hanshin Tigers outfielder Matt Murton, hit the ground running. Murton is hitting .339, with 15 HRs and 77 RBIs.
Others take a little more time.
Yomiuri Giants infielder Edgar Gonzalez seems to be in the latter category.
Many who start slow find themselves stranded on the ni-gun squad, which often affects confidence and leads to a prolonged slump.
Then there are those like Gonzalez, who come out on the other side of a rough patch with a run of play that reminds everyone why they were acquired in the first place.
Gonzalez (.264, 12 home runs, 38 RBIs) was sent down after getting off to a slow start, but he's back now and as the race for the Central League has heated up, so has his bat.
"I'm just relaxing," Gonzalez said. "I'm getting a little bit more comfortable and more confident. I've been playing here in Japan for awhile now, so I'm getting used to everything."
Gonzalez had his best month of the year in August, hitting, .298 with five home runs and 15 RBIs in 84 at-bats.
"I don't think I've changed much," Gonzalez said. "I think I'm hitting the same way I used to hit. I think everything is just coming together at a good time. Now I'm starting to play a little better and starting to feel better."
Gonzlez hit .233 over the first two months of the season, a start that was one cause of his not getting much playing time at the start of the year.
His early struggles can largely be traced back to a tough period of adjustment and sporadic playing time.
The Giants didn't show much patience with him early on, and it was hard for Gonzalez to get into a good rhythm as manager Tatsunori Hara juggled him in and out of the starting lineup.
He managed to keep himself prepared as he waited for another chance, and seems to have finally turned a corner.
"I think the problem was, being here in Japan, there were a lot of different customs and it's totally different from the way you play in the U.S.," Gonzalez said.
"At first I was a little resistant to doing things the way they do them here. But I started to realize it's exactly the same way I do things. It was just a different philosophy and different way of talking about things.
"Once I knew that, I was more comfortable and (Kazunori) Shinozuka-coach and I were on the same page and he's helped me a lot."
Gonzalez spent most of the first half of the season at second base, but is a defensive upgrade for the Kyojin at first, where the team has had problems for the past two seasons.
Having Gonzalez now starting at first opens up a spot for the underrated Ryota Wakiya at second and gives Hara more flexibility when making moves late in games.
Gonzalez kept his focus and believed in his talents even when it seemed like the Giants didn't.
In recent weeks, he's been there when they've needed him, and Gonzalez's patience could turnout to be a virtue of the highest order as the race for the pennant tightens.
"At first it was tough," Gonzalez said. "I have a lot of faith in God. I know God has gotten me through all this. I know that's the reason. I was able to stay relaxed and stay positive. Because I know everything happens for a reason."