Carlos Gonzalez doesn't need a jersey for identification. When he walked into the clubhouse Tuesday morning, he exuded a presence few Rockies have ever possessed over the past 21 seasons. The sunglasses, the big smile, the stream of hugs and handshakes.

At 28, Gonzalez is entering his prime. The opportunity to win as a teammate of fellow all-star Troy Tulo witzki's remains available, but how much longer remains uncertain given their escalating salaries and past health issues.

When both are in the lineup, the Rockies play at a playoff pace. When either one of them is sidelined, the Rockies have struggled to stay relevant. There's one goal for Colorado this season — return to the postseason — and it starts with those two being healthy.

"We know how important it is. We want to see this team continue to grow and get better. There were some positives last year, but the negative was health," said Gonzalez, who recorded just 37 at-bats in the second half of 2013. "If we can't stay healthy, we can't compete. It's what we are waiting for: that one year where we aren't hurt. If we get beat, we get beat. But it will be a lot tougher if we are out there."

In a wide-ranging interview, Gonzalez weighed in on several topics, including his previously injured left middle finger, an uncertain outfield position and his lineup preference.

Gonzalez underwent an appendectomy last month, and had a hernia fixed during the procedure. He's cautiously optimistic that he won't miss any time early this spring. He weighs 225 pounds, same as before the surgery.

"The hernia was something that wasn't bothering me. I didn't even know they did it until I woke up. True story. They got lucky," Gonzalez said with a laugh. "They went through there and said, 'Oh, wait, take that out too.' "

There was no injury more compromising and frustrating for the Rockies last season than Gonzalez's torn finger ligament. He hurt it in early July on an awkward swing against the Arizona Diamondbacks' Patrick Corbin. The injury flared up six times, limiting Gonzalez to one home run in the second half after he belted 25 by the all-star break. The finger remains slightly swollen, but no longer hurts when he swings.