PHOENIX — Adrian Gonzalez’s power is coming back.
In the Dodgers’ first 12 games, Gonzalez has hit four home runs, including an opposite-field two-run blast Saturday in the team’s 8-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. He has doubled his first-month home run total from last season.
Gonzalez’s home run totals have declined in recent years, something the left-handed-hitting first baseman attributed to an operation on his right shoulder leading up to the 2011 season. Gonzalez experienced something similar to what Matt Kemp described last season in the wake of a similar procedure: His shoulder felt tight and his range of motion limited.
Now, more than three years removed from the surgery, Gonzalez said of his shoulder, “It’s looser.”
His expanded mobility has allowed him to follow through on his swing the way he did when he was considered a home run threat.
“My finish is coming back,” Gonzalez said. “It’s something that’s more mechanical than physical. If I can have a high finish and long finish like that, the ball will have more carry.
“Really, it’s the basis of my swing. If I have a good finish, I have a good swing, so it’s really what I focus on.”
Last year, Gonzalez didn’t hit his fourth home run until May 10.
Gonzalez played five seasons with the San Diego Padres and hit 30 or more home runs in four of them, including 40 in 2009. He hit 40 in his last two seasons combined.
Gonzalez’s rediscovered power is a promising development for the Dodgers, who ranked 24th in the majors in home runs last season. They didn’t have any consistent home run threats last year outside of Hanley Ramirez, who played in only 86 regular-season games.
Gonzalez has been hitting the ball hard, even if the statistics haven’t reflected it until the last couple of days. So Gonzalez wasn’t concerned that he began the series against Arizona batting only .189.
“You don’t panic, ever,” he said. “When you’ve been around and you’ve had success, you know what it takes and you know what you need to do. The most important thing is your routine, your preparation.”
In the series opener Friday, Gonzalez hit the first pitch thrown his way by Brandon McCarthy and sent it over the right-field wall.
His opposite-field home run Saturday also came on the first pitch of an at-bat, this one in the third inning against left-hander Wade Miley. The two-run home run extended the Dodgers’ lead to 4-0.
“He left a slider [over the] middle,” Gonzalez said. “I was able to stay behind it. I didn’t think it was going to get out, but it caught a jet stream that was pushing it pretty hard.”
If this home run was wind-aided, it partially made up for potential two home runs he lost in San Diego. In a three-game series against his former team, Gonzalez drove at least two balls that he thought would have been home runs almost anywhere else.
Over the last two days, Gonzalez has raised his average to .267. He collected three hits Friday and two Saturday.
The Dodgers’ cleanup hitter, he not only leads the team in home runs, but also in runs batted in with 11.
Gonzalez has driven in 100 runs or more in six of the last seven seasons. In the other, he drove in 99.