Archive for Sunday, February 29, 2004

Gonzalez arrives at Royals camp

Slugger putting past injuries behind him

February 29, 2004

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— Kansas City did not sign slugger Juan Gonzalez to bunt, but that is the first thing manager Tony Pena asked him to do Saturday in situational hitting drills.

Gonzalez, who has 429 career home runs, said he had not bunted in a game since 1991.

"I talked to Tony and told him if you need me to bunt, I'm ready, man," Gonzalez after his first workout with the Royals. "We practice fundamentals. It is very important. The key of the Kansas City Royals last year was to play great fundamentals, do the little things."

Gonzalez signed a one-year contract with the Royals in January worth $4.5 million with an option for 2005. He is the most heralded free agent signed by the Royals since Mark Davis joined Kansas City in 1989 after he won the National League Cy Young Award with the San Diego Padres.

Gonzalez, who was voted the AL MVP in 1998 and 1998, has been slowed by injuries the past two seasons. He was limited to 82 games last season with Texas and did not play after July 19 because of a right calf injury.

In 2002 with the Rangers, he appeared in just 70 games because of a torn ligament in his right thumb. When healthy, Gonzalez is a RBI machine, driving in 100 or more runs in eight seasons, including 140 in 2001 with the Indians and a league-leading 157 in 1998 with the Rangers.

Gonzalez, 34, said he felt "great" and didn't want to dwell on past seasons.

The Royals are Gonzalez' fourth team in five years.

"I'm real happy and excited to be here with a great organization like the Kansas City Royals," Gonzalez said. "I was talking to other teams, but I feel more comfortable with a team like the Kansas City Royals with young talent and with a great chance to win the division. It is a great organization with a great group of Latinos."

Gonzalez, who likely will bat cleanup in the Royals' lineup behind Carlos Beltran and Mike Sweeney, worked out with Beltran in Puerto Rico before coming to camp.

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