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Gonzales Gets Caught In Game of Give, Take : Baseball: Utility infielder has seen opportunities come and go. When they come, he tries to make the most of them.

July 11, 1993|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Rene Gonzales' strange and unpredictable 1993 season began when he signed with the Angels as a free agent in January. That was the good news.

The bad news was that he went to spring training as a non-roster player and to make matters worse, the Angels had signed Kelly Gruber in December, leaving Gonzales as the odd man out at third base.

Then Gruber underwent rotator cuff surgery in February and Gonzales was back in the picture. All was well until Gruber returned in early June. Back to the bench for Gonzales.

Gruber didn't respond as well as hoped and went back on the disabled list on the Fourth of July. Gonzales back to the starting lineup, right?

Wrong.

Angel Manager Buck Rodgers did some juggling, keeping Torey Lovullo, who filled in for second baseman Damion Easley while Easley was on the disabled list, in the lineup. Rodgers also moved Easley to third, hoping it would be less stressful to Easley's shin splints. And he put Gonzales into the role of utility infielder.

It isn't glamorous but it's a job Gonzales has all to himself at the moment. He certainly made the most of his playing chance Saturday night, recording his second three-hit game of the season in the Angels' 4-2 victory over the New York Yankees.

"I'm sure he didn't like it," Rodgers said of the move. "(But) he realizes he isn't swinging the bat the same way he was last year. But tonight he popped a few balls."

Gonzales singled off Yankee starter Scott Kamieniecki to score J.T. Snow, giving the Angels a 2-0 lead in the second inning. He doubled in the fourth and added an infield single in the eighth.

The hits broke a zero for nine streak and the RBI was only his second since a May 31 game against Toronto when he had two RBIs. His average stands at .255, and he has 18 RBIs.

Both numbers are far below his 1992 totals of .277 and 38 RBIs.

"You're sitting on the bench as a utility player, you've got to take advantage," Rodgers said. "You can't cry in your beer. If you do, we'll find someone else to do the job."

When he's not playing, Gonzales isn't sitting around moping. He's been working with hitting instructor Rod Carew, trying to work out the kinks in a swing that's not as potent as it was last season.

"He's taking advantage of the off time to correct some things," Rodgers said. "If there's an everyday spot, he's got to be ready to go. If there isn't an everyday spot, he's still got to be ready because that's the job."

Rodgers said he'll try to work Gonzales into today's lineup, though he was unsure where. It could be at third base, or perhaps first.

He doesn't want Gonzales to languish on the bench. He wants him ready to contribute whenever he calls on him.

"That's the job," Rodgers said. "You have to take the job they give you in this game."

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