When Marwin Gonzalez made his major-league debut for the Astros in 2012, the utility role was not looked on as fondly as it is today.
Back then, instead of regularly deploying players who could play a number of positions, clubs would typically start the same nine guys at their respective positions while more versatile options were left on the bench.
Now, Major League Baseball has become a hotbed for players capable of playing multiple positions around the infield and outfield.
The Red Sox put this practice to the test this offseason by signing the likes of Gonzalez and Enrique Hernandez — both of whom have seen time at at least seven defensive positions over the course of their careers — to one- and two-year deals, respectively.
“I think the game has changed a lot by altering things and carrying guys like us that can play multiple positions,” Gonzalez said when speaking with NESN’s Tom Caron on Friday. “I’m happy. Because when I got to the big-leagues, it was basically the nine starters were the guys playing almost 162 games, so the guys on the bench didn’t have a chance.
“I’m happy that everything changed and it kind of opened the doors for guys like Kiké and I to do what we do,” he added. “You see pretty much everybody trying to do the same and carrying guys that can play all over the place. I think for a manager, it kind of makes it easy because they can carry an extra pitcher, and it’s better for the whole team.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora alluded to this on Thursday when discussing the roster flexibility that Gonzalez and Hernandez can provide the club this coming season.
“To have Enrique and Marwin on the same team, just being creative. People talk about creative teams and how cool it is. Well, we have a cool team, too,” said Cora. “They’re going to help us a lot. They know how to play defense. Whenever they play, you’re not worried about them making the right decisions, throwing to the right base, being in line of the cut-off man. Both of them, they’re really solid. We’re going to ask them to do a few things in the clubhouse, too.”
Gonzalez, who turns 32 in March, is coming off a two-year tenure with the Twins in which he slashed .248/.311/.387 to go along with 20 home runs and 77 RBI over 167 total games played between 2019 and 2020.
The switch-hitting Venezuelan also played 35 games at first base, 23 games at second base, 63 games at third base, one game at shortstop, 18 games in left field, and 52 games in right field in his time in Minnesota. So it goes without saying that he wears many different hats, or in this case, gloves.
“I have four game gloves and I practice with another one — I don’t like to practice with my game gloves,” said Gonzalez. “I carry five gloves, but in my locker I have like seven to nine gloves. I get new gloves and try to get them ready for the next year or mid-season, something like that.
“Sometimes, I have to ask one of my teammates if he can carry one or two gloves because there’s not enough room in my bag,” he continued. “That’s kind of a hard thing for me to do. When we’re traveling, it’s a pain for me to pack my bags and put everything in my bags.”
(Picture of Marwin Gonzalez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)