SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez believes representing Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic could lead to a good start to the regular season.
The last time Gonzalez played in the Classic, which was in 2013, he hit .306 with a .389 on-base percentage and a .551 slugging percentage in 25 April games. He kept that going in May, posting a .308/.385/.607 line in 28 games.
"You prepare better earlier because you want to play well, and you want to represent your country the best way possible," Gonzalez said. "The mental part -- the get-going process -- is faster because you're going to be playing meaningful games and you're going to play full games right out of the gate.
Gonzalez's career pattern suggests that he needs more than 50 at-bats in February and March to be sharp enough to begin the regular season. For example, the 11 Classic at-bats put him at 51 going into the 2013 season.
But in 2014 and '15, in part because he was recovering from injuries the previous seasons, he had 44 and 42 Spring Training at-bats, respectively. In '14, he finished April hitting .241 with a .293 on-base percentage and a .454 slugging percentage. In '15, his April line was .200/.247/.347.
However, last season, former manager Walt Weiss gave Gonzalez 56 Spring Training at-bats, and Gonzalez responded with a .330/.378/.538 April.
New manager Bud Black noted that the Classic is especially good for position players such as Gonzalez and third baseman Nolan Arenado, who will play for Team USA. Left-hander Jake McGee also will pitch for the United States.
"It's a good tournament -- a competitive tournament that is televised. You're representing your country, there's a lot of attention paid to it, a lot of coverage," Black said. "Position player-wise, those guys -- even though they're not getting the individual defensive work, extra batting practice and time on the field that you do regularly -- they're getting into game shape and mental game shape.
"You worry a little bit about the pitchers, making sure that they've got to be ready to go, throwing at a high intensity because these games count and these guys are into it. Pitching coaches, managers and GMs worry about that a little bit. We feel as though we're doing the right things with McGee getting ready. He's on a little bit of a different plan."