Gonzalez retires after 13 seasons
Phils' veteran infielder hadn't acclimated to backup role
PHILADELPHIA -- Alex Gonzalez grounded to third in the eighth inning of Saturday's 8-4 loss to Boston.The next morning, the Phillies infielder grounded his career, retiring after 1,396 games and 13 seasons. Gonzalez informed the team and general manager Pat Gillick of his decision early Sunday, and quietly left the team without comment. The Phillies called up catcher/infielder Chris Coste from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to take his spot. Coste's first plate appearance will be his Major League debut. "I have decided to open a new chapter in my life," said Gonzalez in a statement. "It has been an excellent ride through the years, and I would like to thank the fans who have supported me throughout my career. There are many things I will miss about the game, including the competition at the highest level and the camaraderie with my teammates." The veteran admittedly was having a difficult time adjusting to bench life, after spending his career as a starter. He was batting .111 with one RBI in 36 at-bats over 20 games. He looked particularly upset after grounding into a double play in Thursday's loss at Milwaukee. "It's been a tough month-and-a-half," Gonzalez said after that game. "That's the battles of a baseball player. There's times when you're in a funk and you feel a lot of pressure to make something happen. That's when it becomes more difficult. I have to relax." "He had been a regular player for a long period of time, and making the adjustment from a regular player to a role player is difficult," Gillick said. "Some people can take that transition and accept their role, and other people aren't really happy in it. No matter what line of work you're in, it's important to be happy. The last couple months, he hasn't been a real happy camper." The Phillies tried to place the 33-year-old on another club over the past few weeks, looking for a situation that could benefit two clubs. Gonzalez signed this winter as insurance against either Jimmy Rollins or David Bell suffering an injury, but both have stayed healthy. Ultimately, after seeing that he wasn't getting desired playing time, Gonzalez told Gillick on Friday about his decision. Gillick asked him to think it over. On Sunday, he retired. "He said he was at peace with his decision," Gillick said. "If you're in one role all your life, and you find yourself in another role, it takes a while. You go through withdrawal. His agent was doing everything possible to put him in the right place and couldn't find it. Eventually, reality has to set in."
Gillick has known Gonzalez since his first team -- the Blue Jays -- drafted the shortstop out of Killian High School in Florida in the 14th round in 1991. He debuted April 4, 1994, at age 21.He also played with the Cubs, Expos, Padres and Devil Rays. Gonzalez hit .243 with 137 homers and 536 RBIs. He was the regular shortstop on the Cubs that went to the postseason in 2003, hitting a career-high 20 homers. "He's had a pretty solid career," Gillick said. "He's been a good solid regular performer. Wherever he's been, up until he went to Tampa Bay, he's played on a regular basis. It was just a tough adjustment for him."
"I'll miss Alex, and I know some other guys will," said Jon Lieber, who was also Gonzalez's teammate with the Cubs in 2002. "He's a gamer and well respected, and I know he wanted to play every day, and I think he deserves that. I'm no hitter. That's a different circumstance that they go through. It's got to be tough when you pretty much play every day your whole career and you've got to sit on the bench."Lieber also held out hope that Gonzalez's retirement isn't permanent. Of course, he must stay on the retired list for at least 60 days, and remains Philadelphia property through this season. After that, who knows? "He's got a wife and two children," Lieber said. "I hate to see a guy that young, who can still play, leave. Hopefully we'll see him back out there. I asked him about that and he said there was no chance. But maybe if he gets away for a little bit. Never say never."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.