The Tigers have been looking for a solution at shortstop since the news broke that Jose Iglesias could miss the entire season due to stress fractures in both legs, and Gonzalez might be a fit. The 37-year-old has spent 15 seasons in the Majors, hitting .246/.290/.396 while playing shortstop (1,539 games), first base (22 games) and third base (11 games). He's also a familiar face for the Tigers' front office, as he came up with the Marlins when Dave Dombrowski was Florida's general manager.
In return, the Orioles reeled in a versatile switch-hitting player in Lombardozzi, who should bolster the club's depth and provide another option in the infield.
"Detroit needed a shortstop," Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. "There's other players that can play second and third, but your first utility player needs to be able to play shortstop. It was the result of our infield depth which allowed us to make this trade.
"It was more about the depth of our infield. We could have taken Alex [Gonzalez] and put him on our 25-man roster, and he could have played. We had a solution in camp. But I think the Tigers needed a shortstop more than we needed a veteran third baseman. We have some other options, players that can play third base other than Alex."
The Orioles signed Gonzalez to a Minor League deal on Feb. 1. He played only 41 games in the Majors last year and was released by the Brewers in June. Duquette commended the veteran for playing winter ball in Venezuela and coming back the way he did, and Gonzalez was equally grateful for the opportunity.
"I'm excited for the news. For me, it's a big opportunity, a chance to play shortstop and play every day. That's what I'm looking forward to," Gonzalez said. "I was here and enjoying a great team and great teammates, great coaches. I'm excited for the chance to play every day. In Spring Training, I had a chance to show the team I could still play. I'm excited about the opportunity."
Duquette said Sunday's announcement that third baseman Manny Machado won't be ready to play on Opening Day didn't contribute to the trade. But with Machado out for at least a few weeks, Lombardozzi could help clear up the Orioles' short-term infield picture.
Gonzalez was in the mix to start at third base during Machado's absence, most likely with Ryan Flaherty getting the nod at second base. Baltimore could move Flaherty to third base during Machado's absence and start Lombardozzi at second base, which Duquette said is his best position.
Upon arriving at Ed Smith Stadium, Lombardozzi, 25, said he hadn't been told what kind of role he'll play. Manager Buck Showalter said he's in the mix to win the starting second-base job, and he could see time at third until Machado returns.
"He gives us good depth at second and third, and with his switch-hitting capability, he gives us some good options," Duquette said. "He's already got two years of experience and he's only 25 years old."
Lombardozzi was traded to Detroit along with two other players on Dec. 2 in exchange for right-hander Doug Fister. In addition to second base (102 games), he's seen time at third (20 games), shortstop (two games) and left field (64 games). Lombardozzi has put together a .264/.297/.342 batting line in 755 career plate appearances over parts of three seasons in the Majors, all with the Nationals.
"I think I'm not going to be somebody that's going to wow you in one night," Lombardozzi said. "I do the little things to help the team win. Over the course of a week, two weeks, you'll see how valuable I am to a team, whether it's getting a guy over, stealing a base, making a great defensive play. I'm just here to help this team win however I can."
Lombardozzi was born in Fulton, Md., and attended Atholton High School in Columbia, Md., his hometown
"I definitely went to Orioles games growing up," Lombardozzi said. "I live right down the street, pretty much, so I was fortunate to be at Nationals Park the last two years, so it will be kind of familiar being back in that area."
To make room for Lombardozzi on their 40-man roster, the Orioles designated catcher Johnny Monell for assignment.