Commentary

Adrian Gonzalez: Home runs will come

Updated: April 29, 2011, 3:10 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BALTIMORE -- For those wondering when they'll start to see Adrian Gonzalez mashing the ball as advertised, the Red Sox first baseman calmly replies: It's coming.

And while he appreciates the concern, Gonzalez dismisses the suggestion made by manager Terry Francona that his shoulder surgery has affected his hitting in any way, especially the lack of power in his first month with the team. Gonzalez entered Thursday night's game batting .290 but so far has hit just one home run, matching the fewest he's hit in any April in his career. Two years ago, playing for the San Diego Padres in a much more spacious ballpark, he hit nine home runs in April. Last season, he hit six.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Gonzalez
Joy R. Absalon/US PresswireAdrian Gonzalez, who says he's been contending with a flaw in his mechanics since the first week of the season, hasn't homered since April 6.

Gonzalez didn't go deep Thursday but he did have three hits, including a pair of doubles, in a 6-2 victory over the Orioles.

"If you've watched my BPs [batting practices] up until now, I haven't been able to drive the ball because my swing's not there," he said. "I've been top-spinning everything. It's just mechanical. It has nothing to do with my shoulder. My shoulder's strong. My body's strong.

"In spring training, my swing felt great and I was hitting home runs in BP all over the place. For whatever reason, I got into a mechanical flaw, from the first week of the season until now. It's a matter of getting out of it."

He shakes his head when someone suggests it must be maddening to be aware of a mechanical flaw and not be able to remedy it quickly.

"In '07," he said, "I remember I went through a span where I hit like .160 for a full month and a half. It's part of the game. I know that by the end of the year, my numbers are still going to be there."

The hits have begun to come with greater frequency for Gonzalez. He has hit safely in 10 of his past 11 games, with multiple hits in five of those games, including a double and RBI single in Wednesday night's 5-4 loss to the Orioles. But his last home run came April 6, when he connected off Frank Herman of the Indians. That's a span of 18 games.

Gonzalez is not concerned. He went 18 games without a home run last season, when he played with a sore right shoulder, and finished with 31 homers. In 2009, there was a 23-game drought, and he hit 40. In 2008, 25 games without a home run, 36 for the season.

Does the San Diego native warm up with the weather?

"It has nothing to do with weather," he said. "It's got to do with repetition. It's got to do with trust. I've never hit for high averages in Aprils. I've hit home runs, and that's just because I'm running into balls, but never for average. I'll have a game where I go 0-for-4, then 2-for-4. A lot of oh-fers with a lot of multihit games.

"I'll come out for a game and I'll feel great, and then the very next day, I feel like crap. Once I get to the point where I'm really comfortable, I've seen enough pitches out of a pitcher's hand, I've seen enough pitchers multiple times and I know what they're going to do, then all of a sudden it's more the game planning, the trust in myself, the pitch I'm going to be looking for; those things start to come on."

Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan jokes that Gonzalez is terrific to work with because "he tells me everything he's doing wrong mechanically."

In a recent pregame session, Francona made a similar observation. Gonzalez goes beyond the "see the ball, hit the ball" school of hitting.

"He's a very intelligent hitter," Francona said. "He's real open about it. He's really cerebral about it. He'll tell you before he goes up this is what he's going to do. He has a plan."

Because he can go the opposite way with such effectiveness, Gonzalez has been getting pounded inside by opposing pitchers, but that's no different, he said, than what he encountered in the National League. And he disputes the suggestion that he's had more trouble laying off some of those pitches.

"It's just the balls I should be hitting with authority, I'm not," he said.

Greater familiarity with American League pitchers will help. As a case in point, there was Orioles rookie Zach Britton, who held the Sox to one run on five hits in six innings to earn his fourth win of the month, becoming the first Orioles pitcher to win four in April. While Britton has been drawing raves, Gonzalez was more muted in his praise.

"He was all right," said Gonzalez, who rolled out all three times he faced the left-hander. "This was the best time for him to face us. Usually when you have a rookie who throws the ball well, he's going to have success until guys start facing him a second or third time around and start figuring him out. That always happens, you know?

"I have to see [pitchers] once to get an idea of how the ball comes out of their hands, how the ball moves, the tendencies they have, how they're going to pitch, all those things.

"This guy [Britton], you watch him on video, and against most lefties, he was throwing them sliders. I went up there, and he threw me changeups. I didn't see one slider. I just saw sinkers and changeups. Those things are things I have to go out and experience. The whole season, he didn't throw a curveball to a lefty, and he threw one to 'Papi' [David Ortiz]. You don't know that until you face him."

Give it time, he says. It's coming.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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