Life is good for Carlos Gonzalez right now. The lefty with the long, beautiful swing came away from 2015 putting up a monstrous second half at the plate. He knocked 27 home runs and drove in 62 runs after the All-Star Break, and slashed .285/.337/.638 across his final 71 games.
The summer as a whole was good to CarGo, too; he smashed 40 homers, drove in 97 runs, slashed .271/.325/.540, and, maybe most importantly, played in 153 games. That's the highest total of his career, and the most he's played since he logged time in 145 games in 2010 when he finished third in National League MVP voting.
Health, a variable CarGo has struggled with for so many years, was finally on his side. And health, above all, is what he'll take into spring training next month for the Colorado Rockies.
"It feels good, I don’t remember the last time I went through a normal offseason," CarGo admitted to Drew Creasman at Rockies Fest on Saturday. "Just hitting the gym, running, doing the fun stuff. In the past two or three years, I’ve always been getting better, trying to fix this injury, rehab or whatever. It’s completely different and it feels good, so I’m excited."
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Gonzalez, who indicated he hasn't been doing much of anything different aside from his regular offseason workout routine, clearly built confidence in himself last summer.
Even though he's a veteran, the Venezuelan outfielder relished the mental boost he got during 2015.
"I know that I have the ability to play ball in the big leagues, and as a result at the end of the year, I showed what kind of player I can be," Gonzalez admitted.
"It was fun, and that’s why I’m really looking forward to spring training, to pick up where I left off."
So what's the secret, anyways? CarGo didn't just magically will himself to play more than 150 games last summer compared to the previous years.
Something changed in the outfielder's preparation and approach to staying on the field, and it worked.
"I don’t think it’s a secret," CarGo said of how he stayed healthy all season. "Hopefully this will continue to stay the same way. Of course, I’m not 20 years old any more, I can’t just run out to Pizza Hut, or Papa John’s and just eat bad. I have to take care of my body. I think that’s the key."
"Just stay lean, and feel strong, and it’s a long season," he added. "Some days you’re going to feel bad, but it’s a grind. That’s why you prepare in the offseason, to be strong enough to go through the whole season, and hopefully you go all the way to the World Series."
Part of the ritual of spring training, of course, is hoping for the best despite all other indications. But CarGo has at least one new reason to be optimistic: a longtime friend who will don a Rockies uniform alongside the Venezuelan veteran.
A hot topic of CarGo's conversation was his good friend Gerardo Parra, whom the Rockies signed to a three-year contract earlier this month.
Clearly, the two of them—ParGo, if you will—are going to fall right into place playing together once again.
"I’m excited because I played with him for a lot of years in the minor leagues when we were with the Diamondbacks, and in winter ball every year," CarGo said of Parra. "We have a lot of history playing together, so I know what type of player he is, on and off the field, so I think he’s going to be very helpful."
"He fits well in this club, he’s a plus defender, which is really important to play in this field," CarGo added about traits of Parra's that would play well in Denver. "Coors Field is big and he has a really powerful arm, so that’s gonna prevent a lot of runs, and offensively he’s still growing as a player."
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A healthy CarGo, Parra's addition, theoretically deeper pitching and some impressive youngsters quickly coming to Colorado, and what do you get?
Well, in the National League West in 2016... maybe not much.
But to CarGo, that's been pretty much status quo his entire career in this division.
"For the past six, seven years since I got to this division, it’s always hard," CarGo admitted. "The Dodgers always try to buy a lot of players. The Diamondbacks are making a big stride now. The Giants are already there, so it’s already difficult to compete."
"It’s gonna be really tough to win the division, but we have talent, we have enough players, the good thing is we have some young players that are growing, and hopefully they become stars and help us out."
Spoken like a true leader, though, the outfielder refused to excuse the Rockies' outlook or situation based on the rest of the division's spending habits.
"Baseball’s already too hard," CarGo said of the club's chances in the NL West."You’ve gotta face good pitchers, and there’s not a small team, there’s not a big team. It’s all the same. We’re all players, we all have talent, and you’ve just gotta show it on the field."