MESA, Ariz. — It was 8 a.m. Monday when Carlos Gonzalez leaned over to knot the laces of his purple cleats.
On the tongue of his kicks, in upper-case, bold lettering, was one word: CARGO.
Not much is expected of these Rockies in 2013.
Expect this: If his body is healthy, CARGO will go big. Given his noticeable focus and fit condition, go ahead and throw an exclamation on it: CARGO!
"For me, it doesn’t matter if we’re playing in the World Series or spring training,” Gonzalez said after the Cubs beat the Rockies 4-2 in a Cactus League game at HoHoKam Stadium on Tuesday. “I still want to go to work, still get in there and play to win.”
Chalk it up as conventional playerspeak, but do so with a risk. Those in the Rockies clubhouse have acknowledged a locked-in CARGO! during this spring training.
"I want to get to 600 at-bats. I’ve never done that," said Gonzalez, whose career-high is 587. "I want to play every day and have the opportunity to get there. If I’m not in the lineup, I will never get there. I want to play the last game until we don’t have any more games.
"Hopefully we get to the postseason. That’s when you want to be healthy and ready. That’s my goal."
The Rockies lost 96 games last season. That wasn’t on Gonzalez. Still, his reasoning for early returns has less to do with the Rockies and more to do with his home country.
Venezuela is a favorite in the World Baseball Classic. An afterthought in the U.S., the event draws millions of eyes back home. The event opens Saturday.
“Right now we’re trying to push it a little bit and try to get to a (high) level real quick, because it’s going to be important for us to play in the right way,” Gonzalez said.
And if it doesn’t go well for Venezuela, the national team is prone to the kind of media criticism that would make the New York tabloids look like the comics. Baseball pressure normally reserved for September and October is ramped up in March.
“A lot of people expect good things," Gonzalez said. "Hopefully we can put in good games and win the tournament."
Against the Cubs on Tuesday, Gonzalez went 2-for-2 with a double, a walk and a stolen base.
"If I got thrown out, I was going to be mad, too," he said.
Baseball people project the Rockies to finish last in the NL West.
Smart people should project CARGO! to show the form that made him the game's best player in 2010.
“When you’ve got a healthy team, which we didn’t have (in 2012),” fellow outfielder Dexter Fowler said, “Everybody benefits from that.”
An important arm in the starting rotation, Jorge De La Rosa struggled in his spring training debut. The lefty allowed two runs and two hits over two innings. "Throw more strikes," De La Rosa said of his next outing. "Throw more quality strikes.” ... The Cubs are in their 17th year at HoHoKam Stadium. It is also their final year there. The club will play its 36th spring season in Mesa in a new, city-funded stadium in 2014. ... The Rockies play the Padres in Peoria at 1:05 p.m. Tuesday.