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Gonzalez thrives after recent return to Giants

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Edgar Gonzalez is back and he’s hit the ground running.

After a long time spent off the diamond in the U.S., Gonzalez, who recently returned to play for the Yomiuri Giants, was essentially ushered off the plane and onto the field upon arriving back in Japan.

Not that he’s complaining.

“It’s going good,” Gonzalez said last week. “I just got back a little while ago and got a couple of games under my belt. I hadn’t played in 20-something days before I came here. I played one game in the minors and then I came up. So, it’s taking some time, but I feel really good.”

Gonzalez is hoping to use the experience he gained from his last stint in Japan to his advantage this time around.

“The adjustment is going to be a lot quicker than it was before,” he said. “There’s always an adjustment period when you go somewhere else, but it’ll be a lot quicker just by knowing the league and being pretty comfortable with it.”

Gonzalez has appeared in eight games for the Giants this year and is looking more comfortable with each at-bat.

He was hitless in his first four games (eight plate appearances), then finished with two hits in each of the next three, driving in three runs over that span. On Tuesday, he homered and finished with three RBIs in Yomiuri’s 5-1 win over the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.

Gonzalez has a .304 average, one home run and six RBIs in the short period of time he’s been back in the fold.

“I’m hoping to help offensively,” Gonzalez said. “The team’s already got really good pitching. I think with a little bit of offense, this team can go a long way and I hope I can help with that.”

He also got to see a bit of history not long after his return, having been present for teammate Toshiya Sugiuchi’s no-hitter against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on May 30.

It wasn’t the first no-hitter Gonzalez had been a part of, but it had a decidedly nicer outcome than the last, when he was a member of the San Diego Padres squad that was no-hit by San Francisco Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez on July 10, 2009. Oddly enough, current Yomiuri infielder John Bowker was playing with San Francisco during that game.

“I came in to pinch hit in the eighth inning, and I hit a ball that was a home run, but (Aaron) Rowand caught it on top of the fence and brought it back,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez is no stranger to Japan or the Giants. He spent the 2010 season with the team, appearing in 100 games and hitting .263 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs. He spent most of the next season with Triple-A Fresno (San Francisco Giants), hitting .315 with 14 home runs and 82 RBIs in 137 games.

From there he had a brief stint in the Chicago Cubs’ organization, but played just nine games for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs before asking for and being granted his release in order to come back to Yomiuri.

“Everything is pretty much the same,” Gonzalez said of being back. “Some of the foreigners are different. They’re a really good group of guys, so I’m happy to be back and I’m happy to see that.”

While familiar with many things in Japan, Gonzalez is aware the robust offensive environment he experienced in 2010 has changed with the introduction of NPB’s new ball, which helped send offensive numbers plummeting in 2011.

The San Diego native says he’s not worried about it having a major effect on his game.

“I’ll just take it how it goes,” he said. “Plus, I don’t consider myself a home run hitter. I consider myself a singles hitter or a doubles hitter. As long as I keep on doing that, I’ll be fine.”