Our old buddy, Mr. Baggy Butt himself, Juan Gonzalez was named the starting RF for the 2005 Cleveland Indians. I found this surprising, as Juan doesn’t seem to fit into what the Indians are doing personnel wise. They seem to be doing mostly what we are, which is a close knit group of young players who are growing together. Close knit is not something that Juando is really known for. He’s known to be moody, selfish, and not a big “team player”.
I liked him when he was here, but after he left the first time, and even during his second tenure with the Rangers, he just didn’t seem like the same player he was before. I wish him well, but along with most other Ranger fans, I have to wonder how long he will go before being placed on the disabled list with some small injury that he doesn’t want to play through.
Here’s a wire story about this issue:
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) — Juan Gone isn’t going anywhere.
Juan Gonzalez will begin the 2005 season as Cleveland’s starting right fielder, returning to the spot where he had one of his most productive years and adding a powerful bat to the Indians’ lineup.
“Juan brings us a presence in the middle of our lineup, and that’s something that can’t be underestimated,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said Sunday. “I hope it makes the team better and him better.”
In making Cleveland’s opening-day roster, Gonzalez earned a $500,000 bonus and he can make an additional $1.95 million if he reaches incentives based on plate appearances and overall days on the active roster.
Gonzalez’s surprising addition also means that Grady Sizemore, the organization’s rising star, will begin the year at Triple-A Buffalo. Sizemore batted .291 with one homer and 10 RBIs this spring, but struck out 14 times in 55 at-bats.
“I’m not happy about it,” said a downcast Sizemore, who was optioned to Buffalo. “I went out and played as hard as I could. I knew they had a decision to make, I just didn’t know which way it was going to go.”
While the 22-year-old Sizemore is a better fit with Cleveland’s collection of young players, his resume is no match for Gonzalez, a two-time AL MVP who when healthy is still one of the game’s most feared hitters.
But Gonzalez’s problem is that he hasn’t been able to stay on the field. In the past three seasons, he has played in just 185 games — 33 with Kansas City a year ago because of a bad back.
“The only pressure I have on me is the injuries,” he said. “Everything is stay healthy. When I’m healthy, everyone has seen my numbers.”
In recent days, general manager Mark Shapiro and Wedge seemed to be split over what to do with Gonzalez.
The club signed Gonzalez to a free-agent, minor league deal for only $100,000 in January not knowing what to expect from the 35-year-old. A three-time All-Star, his bat speed had slowed in the past few seasons and he couldn’t stay off the disabled list. There was speculation that he might be finished.
But other than a minor setback with a strained hamstring earlier this month, Gonzalez has been everything the club could have hoped for.
He appears to have blended in well in Cleveland’s close-knit clubhouse, which was a must for Wedge who was concerned about Gonzalez’s reputation for not always playing through minor injuries, being moody and selfish.
Gonzalez hasn’t played more than 82 games since 2001 when he batted .325 with 35 homers and 140 RBIs for the Indians. But just by having him name on the lineup card — he’ll bat fifth — or standing in the on-deck circle improves a Cleveland team that had seven players drive in more than 70 runs apiece a year ago.
The Indians aren’t taking a huge financial risk or compromising their future by keeping Gonzalez. If he breaks down, they can always recall Sizemore or wait for Jody Gerut, who should be back from knee surgery in June.
In addition, Wedge named Jhonny Peralta his starting shortstop. Peralta won a one-sided battle with Brandon Phillips to take over the vacancy left by Omar Vizquel’s departure.