SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The shatter of ball meeting speeding bat, and the resultant gasps and cheers from teammates, made Friday sound like old times. Rockies star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez had stepped into the batter's box on one of the practice diamonds at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and crushed not one, but two home runs over the batter's eye in dead center.
Gonzalez and several early-arriving position players took batting practice, as they will until the first full-squad workout on Feb. 27. Gonzalez's blasts any time are welcome, but especially now. Gonzalez underwent season-ending left knee surgery last August. It was a year full of pain (an appendectomy in January and an operation to remove a benign tumor from his left index finger in June) and worry (identical twins spent lengthy time in the hospital before coming home healthy). But the knee turned Gonzalez -- a two-time All-Star with a National League batting title on his resume -- into a .238 hitter with 11 homers and 38 RBIs in just 70 games in 2014.
"I can put all my weight back, sit and wait for the ball -- something that I wasn't able to do last year," said Gonzalez, who noted that Friday was just his third batting practice session. "It's my back knee, and it's really important to stay back. I have a leg kick, and last year I had a difficult time staying back on pitches.
"I'm happy to be healthy again, and can concentrate on playing ball."
Rockies fans making the trip or following the club on television might not see much of Gonzalez playing ball in Cactus League games, but that's OK. Manager Walt Weiss has said Gonzalez and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, coming back from left hip labrum surgery, will spend most of their time in Scottsdale gearing up for the regular-season opener April 4 at Milwaukee. How many Cactus League games they play is of little concern.
"I really don't care, because the first couple of games we usually don't play that much, anyway," Gonzalez said. "We can do that halfway, and at the end if we feel like we need more at-bats we can just stay a little longer in the games and get those 30-40 at-bats [total]."
In the case of Gonzalez, he is hitting -- with power -- and sprinting straight ahead, but he'll have to work up to running the bases and being explosive in the outfield chasing balls and changing directions.