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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

SPORTS SCOPE

Giants taking long shot with Gonzalez recall


All signs are pointing to the Yomiuri Giants bringing Edgar Gonzalez back into the fold in the near future, something as perplexing as it is potentially savvy.

Jason Coskrey

It smacks a bit of desperation from a team which surely expected to be feeding the rest of the Central League a considerable amount of its dust from a perch atop the standings by now, not plugging leaks while languishing in fourth place.

Yomiuri's main problems have come at the plate, where things are just a little off. As in the Kyojin could use a little more power, a little more run production and a little higher on-base percentage.

The move could also be a referendum on John Bowker's early struggles. Bowker was on fire during the spring but is off to a rough beginning in games that count, and Yomiuri isn't a club noted for its patience with slow-starting foreign players.

Daisuke Fujimura and Takayuki Terauchi, currently platooning at second base, aren't producing either. So Gonzalez, signed to be regular second baseman in 2010, could easily slide in there or even at first, where Bowker is filling in for the injured Michihiro Ogasawara.

Gonzalez doesn't seem like a natural cure to the team's ills. Then again, despite reeking of a vintage dose of Yomiuri overreaction, there's a chance this could work.

Gonzalez hit .263 with an on-base percentage of .342 and slugging percentage of .457 in 100 games for the Giants (finishing with 12 homers and 44 RBIs) in 2010. Not quite the slash line of .320/.390/.465 he put up in 374 games in Triple-A. Gonzalez also had a slash line of .274/.329/.385, seven home runs and 33 RBIs in 111 games for the San Diego Padres in 2008.

It's tough to tell just how much one can glean from Gonzalez's first experience in Japan. He got off to a rough start, hitting .216 with one home run and six RBIs in his first 88 at-bats.

He was eventually sent to the farm, but something clicked after he was called back up and Gonzalez hit .280 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 20 games in July and .296 with five home runs and 15 RBIs in 26 games the next month.

Part of the initial problem may have been his reluctance to adjust his style of play to fit his new surroundings.

"At first I was a little resistant to doing things the way they do them here," Gonzalez told The Japan Times in August of 2010. "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."

Armed with the knowledge of what did and didn't work last time around, it's possible a more open-minded Gonzalez can make enough of an impact to help kick-start the Yomiuri offense.

News photo
Second coming: The Yomiuri Giants may turn to Edgar Gonzalez in a bid to kick-start their sluggish season. WAYNE GRACZYK

It's important to note, however, the environment he's stepping into has changed slightly. Gonzalez left prior to the introduction of NPB's new ball, which has caused consternation for hitters across Japan. He'll find gappers and home runs are a little tougher to come by now and warding off frustration will be a major part of the process.

Bringing Gonzalez back seems like a long shot, but Yomiuri obviously sees the glass as half-full.

The Giants already have more useful players than they know what to do with, but the lust for instant gratification is something the team's power brokers have never been able to ignore.

That mindset worked when the Giants reeled in free-agent foreign players with prior NPB experience in 2007 (Alex Ramirez, Seth Greisinger and Marc Kroon) and 2009 (Dicky Gonzalez) and they must feel it'll work this time around as well.

The Giants have cast their nets out once again, and time will tell whether it's feast or famine that they catch this time.



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