CarGo to celebrate batting title by improving

CarGo to celebrate batting title by improving

ST. LOUIS -- Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez has already planned how he'll celebrate winning the National League batting title in his first full season in the Majors.

"I'm just going to hit until my hands bleed," Gonzalez said.

He will take some time, however, to enjoy becoming the third Venezuelan to win the batting crown, behind Andres Galarraga for the Rockies in 1993 and Magglio Ordonez for the Tigers in 2007. But that's mainly because he has to take some time.

Gonzalez, who turns 25 on Oct. 17 and finished with a .336 average, suffered from tendinitis in his right wrist and thumb for the final month-plus. The injury had something to do with his finishing with 34 home runs, fourth-most in the National League. Gonzalez also finished second to the Cardinals' Albert Pujols by one in the RBI race. All that means is a healthier Gonzalez might have been able to be the first player since the Red Sox's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win a league Triple Crown -- batting average, home runs and RBI titles in the same year.

The Reds' Joey Votto finished second in the batting race at .324, the Braves' Omar Infante was third at .321 and teammate Troy Tulowitzki was fourth at .315.

"Battling for a month and trying to keep my batting average high so nobody can catch me is not that easy," Gonzalez said. "I'm very happy and very blessed to have an opportunity to have something very special like this. There are a lot of people who follow me the whole year, and they believed I was going to do it. They're very happy and very excited to have a batting champion in Venezuela."

Gonzalez sat out the final two games because of soreness in the wrist and thumb, which prevented him from becoming the third Venezuelan to reach 200 hits in a season. The others were Ordonez (216 in 2007) and the Twins' Cesar Tovar (204 in 1971).

Rockies manager Jim Tracy believes Gonzalez will have to make time to accept plenty more honors this offseason.

"You're looking at a guy that is obviously a Silver Slugger Award winner in my opinion, he's the National League batting champion, I think it's an absolute crime if he doesn't win a Gold Glove, and I think he's going to garner some votes for Most Valuable Player," Tracy said. "That's a pretty special season when you consider the fact I was being harassed quite a bit in the latter part of June a year ago as to how much longer I was going to continue to play the guy.

"It was not a bad year his first full season in the Major Leagues. What we see and what we like an awful lot has a chance of getting better."

Gonzalez started slowly after being called up last year at midseason, but hit .320 with a .608 slugging percentage after the break and 10-for-17 in the Rockies' loss in the NL Division Series. This year he took a step forward, but said he is upset his team didn't return to the postseason.

Gonzalez won the batting crown despite a high strikeout total -- 135. Tracy noted that Gonzalez shouldn't overdo his efforts to trim strikeouts since he is a power hitter, but cutting 30 or so strikeouts could make his numbers even more impressive.

So Gonzalez will work with his older brother, Euro, who coached him in youth ball years ago, and a friend who will pitch batting practice. Gonzalez also intends to spend part of the winter in California training with fellow clients of his agent, Scott Boras.

"The preparation that I've had, I'm going to try to do it twice as hard," Gonzalez said. "We don't want to get stuck. We want to get better. If you look at my numbers, they were great but we didn't get what we wanted. We didn't advance to the postseason.

"I guess that's the way you have to put it. You have to try to get better so you can be an All-Star. If you get comfortable with what you do, you can get stuck. You'll get worse."

Gonzalez's is the seventh batting title in the Rockies' 18-year history. He joins Galarraga, Larry Walker (1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001), Todd Helton (2000) and Matt Holliday (2007).

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @harding_at_mlb on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.