The Dodgers are counting on their new first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in more ways than one going into the 2013 season. They are hoping he can return to circa-2009 form when he hit 40 homeruns and collected 99 RBI with the Padres. Many doubters feel that Gonzalez is in decline, but the 30-year old may have just needed to return to his familiar home of Southern California in order to get back into the groove.
Not only do the Dodgers need Gonzalez to produce at the plate, since the team has been devoid of power from the infield corners for far too long. After all, the Dodger had about seven years of mediocrity at the plate with James Loney. The most homeruns Loney ever hit in one season with the Dodgers was 15 back in 2007 in his sophomore year in the Majors. Last season before being traded to the Boston Red Sox, Loney had only hit 4 homeruns with 33 RBI in 114 games. Although James was a wonderful fielding first baseman, his defensive prowess did not outweigh his uselessness with the bat. The Dodgers had gone far too long without a first baseman who could contribute offensively. Adrian Gonzalez is hopefully the answer to this seven-year old problem.
Not only are the Dodgers relying on Gonzo to drive in runs this season, but they are also looking to him to play 162 games. No, but really he needs to play every single game. We all know that is impossible, so the Dodgers are in a bit of a predicament you see. They really do not have a viable first base back-up. That is why they started Juan Uribe at first base this Spring, and I can bet that they will continue to do so throughout March. We should all hope that nothing happens to Adrian Gonzalez. An injury to Gonzalez almost certainly means that Juan Uribe will be starting at first base. Unless you want Scott Van Slyke, Nick Punto, or Skip Schumaker to play first?
Even though the Dodgers spent an exorbitant amount of money this offseason putting together a team, there are still red flags, what ifs, and who are we going to lead-off with questions looming for Don Mattingly and team. The success of the Dodgers in 2013 of course most depends on the health of Chad Billingsley, Matt Kemp, and Carl Crawford. Yet there is still three too many starting pitchers on the roster, no back-up to first base, third base/shortstop conundrums, the bench in all its glory, and the hope that Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett will return to form.
Adrian Gonzalez will no doubt become a popular player in Los Angeles. Last season I already spied plenty of Gonzalez jerseys at Dodger Stadium soon after he was acquired, and his epic first Dodger at-bat homerun set the bar high. The question is will he stay a fan favorite if he doesn’t succeed? 2013 will be huge for Gonzalez, and the last thing we need in Los Angeles is another so-so Dodger at first base.
So far this Spring, Gonzalez is hitting .222 with 2 hits, 2 strikeouts, and 3 walks in 9 at-bats.