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08/12/09 8:30 PM ET
Gonzalez focused on strong finish
Cincinnati holds 2010 option for red-hot shortstop
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- One look at Alex Gonzalez's .217 batting average entering Wednesday night and it's clear the offensive hole he dug himself into during the first half had him near the Earth's core. Gonzalez has come on lately, however. In Tuesday's 5-4 win over the Cardinals, he had a career-high-tying four-hit game and came into Wednesday batting .450 (9-for-20) on the Reds' road trip and .344 (11-for-32) in August. "I feel very good. I am hitting the ball hard. I'm finding some holes," said Gonzalez, who has three home runs and 26 RBIs. Gonzalez batted sixth vs. St. Louis on Wednesday but has spent the bulk of his hot streak in the two-hole. Although he has a woeful .266 on-base percentage, he has been productive in that spot. "I feel more comfortable in the second spot," Gonzalez said. "I'm seeing more pitches. I want to keep doing what I've been doing. I'm waiting for good pitches and taking good swings." This could be a pivotal stretch for Gonzalez, who is in the final guaranteed year of a three-year, $14 million contract. The Reds hold a $6 million option for 2010 with a $500,000 buyout. With the Reds already committed to spending over $60 million next season on eight players with multiyear contracts and a $73 million payroll this season, picking up Gonzalez's contract is far from a lock. For now, Gonzalez isn't dwelling on the uncertainty. "I don't think about it," Gonzalez said. "Right now, it's about helping the team win and trying to finish strong. I can't think too much about that. We have two months left. It's more important for me to finish strong and finish the season healthy. We will see after the season. "I've had three years in Cincinnati and it's been great. It's a great city to play baseball. But my mind right now is on these two months." From June 20-July 23, Gonzalez was on the disabled list because he needed right elbow surgery to remove bone chips. "He had it going on pretty good before he got hurt. He was starting to get it," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He went backwards and is going forward again. He's staying off of bad pitches, getting good pitches to hit and is swinging the bat well."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.