FORT MYERS, Fla. — Adrian Gonzalez didn't think that taking batting practice on the field for the first time was a big deal. But his Red Sox teammates enjoyed seeing their new first baseman hitting a few balls out of City of Palms Park this morning.
"Sign him!" bellowed David Ortiz after watching Gonzalez take 25 swings at balls pitched to him by Class AAA Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler.
"It's about time," joked Dustin Pedroia. "We traded half the farm system for him."
Head athletic trainer Mike Reinold and bench coach DeMarlo Hale kept a close eye on Gonzlez, who knocked three balls over the fence. Hiting coach Dave Magadan stayed behind to watch, too.
Gonzalez is recovering from surgery he had in October to repair a labrum tear in his right (non-throwing) shoulder. He started swinging at balls on a tee on Feb. 21 and has been building up gradually since.
There is no date for when Gonzalez will play in his first game. But getting on the field for batting practice is a big step in that direction.
"It felt good the whole time. It was good to get out there," Gonzalez said. "The pitcher is throwing the same way he is in the cage. [But] from a hitters' perspective, you just want to see the trajectory of the ball and you get to see the whole length of the trajectory and all that. You get to really see if you got good backspin on the ball or not."
Gonzalez will take tomorrow off. He said from a medical perspective, hitting on the field added some intensity and he was curious how his shoulder would feel in the morning.
"You're putting more stress on the shoulder. That's the reason for taking tomorrow off, to see how it responds," he said.
Gonzalez is at a stage in his rehab where how he feels on a daily basis determines the intensity of his workout. At the rate he is progressing, his first game could come within a week. He remains on target to start Opening Day.
"It felt fine," he said. "It felt normal. Little mechanical things I can work on, but it felt good."
But no matter how good he feels, Gonzalez is taking his time with the process.
“I remind myself every day of that,” he said. “We’re not going too fast. We’re taking it pretty slow. If I was going too fast, I’d be playing right now. My shoulder is responding pretty good. We’re just taking it one day at a time.”
Gonzalez wasn't worried about hitting home runs. His focus was taking a good swing, staying on top of the ball and driving it to left center.
"I felt good, but there were swings where I was still coming off of it a tad," he said. "I still want to work on that and I'll be able to work on that in the cage."