On the NL vs. AL: “Pretty much the same,’’ Gonzalez said. “I don’t think this division [AL East] is any tougher than the NL West. I know they talk it up to be. The AL East is very competitive and the hitting over here is a lot better. I think if you had to go up and down each team, you have more hitters here, but there’s more talented pitching in the NL West. But when you put in the hitters here, it’s evened out. In this division you have more veteran pitchers who are brought in at the end of their careers.
“The bullpens in general are better in the NL West. Overall there’s better pitching over there because of the ballparks. That has a lot to do with it. There are balls I’ve hit close to being homers or doubles in the NL West that are outs there, that are doubles or homers here. That has a lot to do with the pitching and the confidence the pitchers have over there. As a hitter here, you feel good when you hit a ball and it ends up being good for you rather than being an out.’’
He was asked the difference between being with the Padres, who were last season’s Cinderella story, and the Red Sox, who entered this season with so many expectations.
“In San Diego we knew we had a really good, talented squad where the pitching took us to the playoffs if we made it,’’ he said. “This is an all-around team where we have a lot of good hitting, pitching, and bullpen. This feels like a team where we know all we need to do is get into the playoffs, and if we do, we have a really good chance to make it deep into the playoffs.’’
Gonzalez had shoulder surgery in the offseason. Has that limited him at all? “I have zero limitations now,’’ he said. “Offensively, I had to go to a lighter bat so I didn’t have quite the extension I have now. Now I’m back to the bat I used two years ago against righties, which is a 35/33. I use the same bat I used last year against lefties. There’s only a half-inch difference, but it’s a big difference when you’re trying to get a little more coverage of the plate, dropping the barrel more against righties. Defensively, I learned a lot last year about positioning myself, which I’ve been able to apply this year. I can put myself in a better position so I don’t have to dive as much, but when put in that position, I’m able to dive for balls and now I’m doing it without thinking about it. The positioning is the big thing because I think with my experience now it seems the more time you’ve put into the game the more the coaches and managers let you do things outside the scouting report. Now, if I say I’d like to cheat a couple of steps one way or the other, they let me do it because they trust that I’m basing it on my instincts that I’ve acquired through experience.’’