It would be overly simplistic to simply ask Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez why he hates his home town team. But it would also have merit.
It’s easy for observers of the game to think Gonzalez, an Eastlake High School alum and former Padres All-Star, has made it his life’s mission to torment his former fan base. In the first two games of the season Adrian has four hits in eight at-bats, three runs batted in and three runs scored.
Last year Gonzalez set a Major League record with five home runs in a season-opening three-game series against the Padres at Dodger Stadium. It sparked a vicious backlash against then-manager Bud Black as people wondered why he allowed his pitchers to keep throwing to the Dodgers slugger.
That same question is now dogging rookie skipper Andy Green. On Opening Day Gonzalez batted with a runner in scoring position and first base open three times. He singled home that run all three times. Now, one of those came in the first inning of the season so walking him intentionally there would be idiotic.
However, as the game was getting out of hand the strategy held merit. On Tuesday night Gonzalez never came up with runners on base but if that happens in Wednesday’s series finale at Petco Park, will Green decide to put Adrian on base on purpose?
“I think we’ve got to pitch to him in a disciplined fashion in that setting,” said Green. “I don’t know that we’re going to put him on. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. It depends on the way the game is at that point in time.”
Gonzalez has tremendous numbers against Wednesday night’s starting pitcher, Andrew Cashner. In 32 career at-bats he’s hitting .344 with four home runs and an absurd 1.150 OPS. Basically, when Gonzalez faces Cashner, he turns in to Babe Ruth. At least, that’s what the numbers say. Green sees it a little differently.
“(Gonzalez) does have some solid numbers against (Cashner) but a lot of those were built up early in the season last year in that one game. The rest of the time it’s been almost neutral in respect to Adrian. He’s had one really good game, and we’re not going to diminish that game.”
Green is talking about that 3-home run game from April 9, 2015. All of the long balls came off of Cashner. If you remove that one game Gonzalez’s numbers drop to a .276 average with one home run and a pedestrian .758 OPS. Basically, he becomes Ty Wigginton. Still, the Padres will approach Adrian with a healthy dose of caution.
“We know how good he is,” said Green. “When it’s right we’ll pitch around him and pitch intelligently to him.”