Gonzalez measures success by RBIs

Peoria, AZ- From Independent League ball to affiliated baseball – that is the path of Tony Gonzalez, a player with significant pop in his stick.

Last year you were in independent ball – what did you learn about yourself during that process?

Tony Gonzalez: While I was there I learned to give it my all and play my own game. I did pretty well, earning Rookie of the Year, and got an opportunity to come over here to the Padres.

I learned a lot over there. Hopefully, I can bring it over here and play well.

What was the signing process like for you?

Tony Gonzalez: It was pretty grueling actually. I was waiting to see what would happen. I had a workout with the Padres when I came back and did pretty well in the workout. Grady saw the video of me hitting and apparently liked what he saw because here I am.

It was a long off-season. It went well and I am glad I am here.

You hit nine homers last year in 62 games – is that the biggest part of your game?

Tony Gonzalez: Yea – that and my speed. A lot of guys my size really don't run well. I have heard from the coaches that I run well for my size.

Right now, I am trying to get on base and see as many pitches as I can so when I get into the season I will be in a groove and able to see the ball well. The main thing is to see the ball and make contact.

As the season goes on, then I will start getting my home run swing. Right now, I am just trying to make contact and help my team.

You come into Spring Training working on a couple of things and one of those appears to be first base. The signs seem to be the biggest obstacle.

Tony Gonzalez: I haven't really played first base since junior high – maybe. But if they put me behind the dish I will go behind the dish. If they put me on the mound I will go there. Wherever they put me I will play. It will be a learning experience. I am working with coach (Gary) Jones, and he is doing a good job with me.

What are the challenges of playing first base?

Tony Gonzalez: Taking ground balls is the big thing. Receiving the ball from the infielders is pretty easy. It is just taking those ground balls, being able to read and judge on balls in between the pitcher and I – that way I know whether or not to get back to the base or let the pitcher take it.

It has to be pretty tough to find the bag when in the outfield you are only concerned with catching and throwing, right?

Tony Gonzalez: You do have to find the bag. First base was a comfortable position for me when I was growing up – the speed was a factor because they didn't want to waste my speed and they put me in the outfield, where I have been ever since. At the same time, I am looking to find a place to play.

You mentioned speed a couple of times – is the idea to be aggressive on the base paths?

Tony Gonzalez: Oh yea, very much so. Pitchers and catchers – they are going to think that here is a big guy and he is not going to run. Hopefully, I can get a couple of stolen bases early in the year and those pitchers and catchers will learn by the second half of the season that this guy can run a little bit and maybe buckle down.

If the coach gives me that steal sign or I can read the pitcher, I am going to go. I am going to try and get as many as possible. That is a part of my game and will always be a part of my game.

When you assess your talents, what is the strength of your game?

Tony Gonzalez: Obviously, my size is a factor. Being 6-foot-5, 240-pounds, has a play over some smaller guys. Power – when I came out here the first day I think I turned some heads when we took live BP and I hit four home runs that day.

That is the main thing – they are going to want me to drive in runs. RBIs is what I am here for. If I hit two home runs and have 70 RBIs that is a productive year right there.

When you look back at the end of the 2008 season, what will make for a successful campaign?

Tony Gonzalez: RBIs, getting those guys in. The more RBIs I have, the better the chance our team will be in a position to win. If I can get as many RBIs as possible – whether they come on a sacrifice fly, a sacrifice bunt or a home run, I will take it either way.

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