Thursday, April 24, 2014
From a Portland Press story April 28, 2002:
'Watch Gonzalez take his left-handed swings in batting practice, and something's wrong: the music. The Hadlock Field loudspeaker is blaring pop music when Beethoven and Bach should be heard. Gonzalez steps into a pitch, the bat immediately following in an easy stroke that wallops the ball. This is art.'
It was my first year on the Sea Dogs beat and here was Adrian Gonzalez, 19, looking like the real thing. Turns out, he was, especially with that effort-less swing.
"The swing just came," Gonzalez said at the time. "I've never had to develop it. Maybe I've adjusted it here and there. But my swing has always been there. It's something I'm blessed with."
And now, of course, the Red Sox are hoping to be blessed with watching that swing 81 times a year at Fenway Park.
By now you know the details of the proposed trade between San Diego and Boston - the Padres getting Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes and a player to be named, and the Red Sox getting Gonzalez, now 28.
The only thing left to be done is working out a contract extension. There has been only speculation about that. It could either be a real hurdle or the deal could be done by the time you read this.
Back to Gonzalez's days in Portland: He batted .266 with 17 home runs. He had some great days, including one 5-for-5 performance. He also struck out 112 times, compared to 54 walks.
Gonzalez was the first overall draft pick in 2000. But the Marlins traded him in July of 2003, getting Ugueth Urbina in the deal (who would be Florida's closer in the 2003, as the Marlins won the World Series).
Gonzalez was sent to Texas. The Rangers had a guy named Mark Teixeira at first base. Gonzalez was sent to San Diego in January of 2006.
So far, Gonzalez has a .284 career batting average with 168 home runs. Last year, he batted .298 with 31 home runs and 101 RBI.
To get Gonzalez, Boston will give up two first-round round picks (Kelly in '08, and Fuentes in '09) and an up-and-coming first baseman. Rizzo hit 20 home runs in Portland last year, as a 20-year-old.
Kelly, 21, was 3-5 last year with a 5.31 ERA. But those numbers can be misleading since Kelly was rushed to Double-A with little pitching experience. This season should be a good benchmark.
Fuentes, 19, was being touted as an outfielder in the mold of Johnny Damon and Jacoby Ellsbury. He batted .270 in low Class A last year - his first full season - and had 42 stolen bases.
It's a good group of prospects for San Diego, which has enough former Red Sox front office people to know these players well.
But it was certainly worth the risk in order to get a bat (and glove) like Gonzalez's.
Portland fans saw that swing eight years ago. Gonzalez was productive then.
Now he's better.
Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.
Follow his thoughts on the Boston Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs on Clearing the Bases
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