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Gonzalez moves closer to a game

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  March 2, 2011 05:20 PM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. —Adrian Gonzalez could get into a game late next week, that’s how much progress he has made in his comeback from shoulder surgery. But the new Red Sox first baseman doesn’t want to look too far ahead.

“I don’t want to have a date and push it if I don’t feel ready,” Gonzalez said earlier today. “When I’m ready, I’ll get into a game. It’s not going to take too long.”

Gonzalez took 70 swings this morning, half off a tee and half at balls flipped to him.

“Felt great,” he said. “Everything is going better than I could have expected.”

Gonzalez will take tomorrow off. His schedule on Friday will be 30 swings off a tee, 30 flips and 10 pitches from a coach. From there he will build up to taking batting practice on the field, the final step before getting into a game.

All projections have Gonzalez being ready for Opening Day.

“I think he’s definitely ahead of schedule,” manager Terry Francona said. “It’s completely up to how he’s feeling. It’s early in camp and we’ve only played three games. His progression’s way further along than we thought it would be.”

Meanwhile the Sox lost, 6-1, to the Braves.

Here's Francona's take on some pitchers:

On John Lackey: "I thought second inning he was trying to establish that fastball and he left one up. He looks healthy and that's good. ... Velocity will be the last thing to come with him, which is fine with us. He looked fine. He threw a couple of good sliders."

(Lackey went two innings allowing one run, a homer by Alex Gonzalez.)

On Hideki Okajima: "Good today. Good. Any time you see Oki get swings and misses on his fastball, that pretty much tells you he's locating it."

(Okajima retired the side in order in the fourth, striking out two.)

On Scott Atchison: "Nice clean inning, like Scotty seems to have a knack for doing. Throws strikes, throws all his pitches. Gets in and gets out., works quick."

(Atchison worked a perfect third inning, getting a popup and two grounders.)

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