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Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez finally healthy, OK with possible move to centre field

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Carlos Gonzalez insists moving from left to centre field at spacious Coors Field won't be a problem.

Staying healthy may be the bigger issue for the Colorado Rockies slugger.

Dominant at the plate and in the field when he can play, Gonzalez is eager to show he can log 145 games again after wrist and finger injuries have slowed him in recent years.

His bad luck continued even after the season when he needed an emergency appendectomy. And when doctors were performing that surgery, they discovered a hernia that needed repair.

"I'm really glad it happened in the off-season," Gonzalez said Friday. "I feel good. I recovered really well after the surgery. I got my weight back (to 225 pounds) and I'm ready to go."

Gonzalez just isn't sure where he'll be going. When the season ended and the Rockies traded speedy centre fielder Dexter Fowler to Houston, Gonzalez was sure he was taking his Gold Glove to centre.

But then Colorado acquired Drew Stubbs from Cleveland. And while manager Walt Weiss said Gonzalez will start the spring in centre, it's possible he could go back to left if Stubbs or Charlie Blackmon play well enough at centre in exhibition games.

"Offensively, defensively, we'll look at how the club is designed and we'll make a decision accordingly," Weiss said. "We've got multiple options in centre field. But CarGo is going to run out to centre field and we'll see how it works."

The three-time Gold Glove winner is fine with the move, as long as he sticks in one spot.

"You don't want to be bouncing around," Gonzalez said. "That's something I did early in my career and it was affecting me physically and mentally. So I'm ready to play in one position and whatever position is good, either centre or left."

Gonzalez covering all that ground and making longer throws won't be that much of an adjustment because left field is spacious in Denver, too.

"In Coors Field you have to play the outfield," Gonzalez said. "Left field, especially, those big corners and you have to cover a lot of ground. When you go on the road you feel like, 'OK, I'm going to have a couple days off now.'"

The Rockies, coming off an injury-riddled 74-88 season, need Gonzalez to not have so many real days off.

In 2010, the Venezuela native hit .336 to win the National League batting title and was third in the MVP voting. It earned him a seven-year, $80.5 million contract.

But the 28-year-old hasn't played more than 135 games in any season since.

Gonzalez had 26 home runs on July 20, but didn't hit another the rest of the way because of the troublesome finger injury that led to a lengthy stint on the disabled list.

"Yeah, it was a tough time for me because I wanted to play baseball," Gonzalez said. "I was having a great year, but things happen."

Gonzalez decided against off-season surgery, but has moved his right hand up on the bat in hopes he won't aggravate it.

If Gonzalez, All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, reigning NL batting champ Michael Cuddyer and newly acquired Justin Morneau stay healthy, the Rockies will present a fearsome lineup.

And Gonzalez is more concerned with staying in that lineup than his spot in the outfield.

"I try to get ready every single year to help this club," Gonzalez said, "and if it's going to be in centre field, I'm going to be excited to do it."

NOTES: Weiss said they plan to keep five outfielders. . A dark horse in the outfield competition could be Corey Dickerson, an eighth-round pick in 2010. "I think he's a pure hitter," Weiss said. "He plays with an edge." . Weiss is putting a lot of thought into the opening message he'll give before the first full squad workout Sunday. "It's important, to set a tone, to set the expectations," he said. "We're talking about trying to create an identity."

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