New shortstop Erik Gonzalez excited for chance to play every day for Pirates
BRADENTON, Fla. — Erik Gonzalez waited a decade to become an everyday player in the major leagues, and this spring training represents his first chance to be a starter.
“I always tried to put my vision on being a guy that played every day in the league,” said Gonzalez, 27, who signed with Cleveland in 2009 out of the Dominican Republic and was traded to the Pirates in November. “Now I get the opportunity for that.”
After playing behind Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor as a utility infielder with the Indians, Gonzalez arrived Saturday at Pirate City ready to take a shot at becoming the Pirates’ starting shortstop. His defensive range was on display during workouts in how fluidly he handled ground-ball drills.
That was Clint Hurdle’s first chance to see Gonzalez up close, but the Pirates manager said he placed his trust in the club’s scouts watched Gonzalez play in the minor leagues. Hurdle met with Gonzalez last month at PiratesFest and spoke to him several times. Gonzalez’s enthusiasm was evident in his quick smile, Hurdle said.
“You talk to him about it, and I think you’ll feel his optimism and his excitement,” Hurdle said. “All you have to do is do the math. Look at who he’s played behind. Look at his story through the minor leagues. When he played a lot, he played well. A lot of our information came from guys who saw him play in the minor leagues and saw him play in the small spaces. To get this opportunity, you never know when it’s going to happen, and when it does, you want to embrace it.”
The Pirates acquired Gonzalez in a five-player trade in November, sending infielder Max Moroff and outfielder Jordan Luplow to the Indians for Gonzalez and a pair of pitching prospects.
“When they first traded for me, I was happy for that,” Gonzalez said. “Now I’m happy to be here, to put my talent on the field.”
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Gonzalez, who slashed .265/.301/.375 last season, is expected to compete with former first-round pick Kevin Newman to replace Jordy Mercer as the starter at shortstop. Mercer signed with the Detroit Tigers in free agency.
“I’m excited for that,” Gonzalez said, “for a big year.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .