Red Sox Notebook

This smacks of real progress

Gonzalez takes cuts on the field

By Peter Abraham and Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / March 7, 2011

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Adrian Gonzalez didn’t think 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 yesterday morning.

“Sign him!’’ bellowed David Ortiz after watching Gonzalez take 25 swings off Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler.

“It’s about time,’’ joked Dustin Pedroia. “We traded half the farm system for him.’’

Athletic trainer Mike Reinold and bench coach DeMarlo Hale kept a close eye on Gonzalez, who knocked three balls over the fence.

Gonzalez is recovering from October surgery to repair a labrum tear in his right (nonthrowing) shoulder. He started swinging off a tee Feb. 21 and has been gradually building up since.

There is no date for when Gonzalez will play his first game. But yesterday was 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 today off. He said from a medical perspective, hitting on the field added some intensity and he was curious how his shoulder will feel this morning.

“You’re putting more stress on the shoulder,’’ he said. “That’s the reason for taking tomorrow off, to see how it responds.’’

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.’’

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.’’

Terry Francona kidded before yesterday’s 6-5 loss to the Mets in Port St. Lucie that the team left Gonzalez back in hopes of hiding him a bit but then the manager noticed only two Boston reporters made the trip. The rest were left behind to watch Gonzalez.

Francona said there’s no timetable for Gonzalez to play a game.

“It all goes by how he does,’’ Francona said. “There’s no rush. He’s so ahead of schedule there’s no need to rush. Our regulars are sitting on eight at-bats right now.’’

Francona was inferring that Gonzalez isn’t that far off from those who have played regularly.

Nobody left out The Lefty-Mania winner? The Sox trotted out Andrew Miller, Hideki Okajima, and Rich Hill in yesterday’s loss. We know who it wasn’t — Miller — who had been the camp darling. However, he surrendered three runs in the third inning of a two-inning stint. He got touched for doubles by Angel Pagan and Scott Hairston and a two-run homer by lefthanded hitter Ike Davis.

“He didn’t locate very well,’’ Francona said. “Kind of paid the price for it. And I wanted him to go back out [in fourth inning] and get stretched out a little bit and he actually threw the whole [1-2-3 fourth] inning.

“He threw his first breaking ball, which was nice to see.’’

On the plus side was Okajima, who threw a scoreless inning and retired David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Jason Bay. Hill was also impressive, retiring six of the seven batters he faced in two scoreless innings.

“Okie threw real well,’’ Francona said.

“Rich is still kind of fighting with that new arm slot a little bit at times. He threw a couple of breaking balls over the top that he didn’t command.

“The consistency will be a big thing with Rich to try and repeat because he has that different arm slot. So the more we get him out there . . . he’s got some life on that fastball and with the arm slot, the breaking ball has a chance to give lefties some trouble.’’

Hill allowed a single to Hairston in the sixth, but retired lefthanded hitters Davis and Daniel Murphy before striking out righthanded-hitting catcher Mike Nickeas on a high, inside fastball.

“Everything was aggressive and it was a good day. I threw it with conviction, stayed aggressive and just pitched to my strengths,’’ said Hill.

Power surge The Red Sox belted three homers in the loss. Juan Carlos Linares continues to impress; he blasted a third-inning solo shot. Tim Federowicz hit a solo shot in the seventh, and Josh Reddick tied the game in the eighth with a two-run homer. Jed Lowrie stroked a pair of righthanded hits and designated hitter Daniel Nava, who had to drive himself to Port St. Lucie after some miscommunication regarding his availability, stroked two hits and reached base three times. “I know the fans grumble about it, but it’s really fun for our staff to see some of these kids and spend the whole day with them,’’ Francona said . . . Francona said Jon Lester, who was felled by flu-like symptoms and had to miss Thursday’s start, will throw a three-inning simulated game tomorrow . . . Another flu victim, J.D. Drew, worked out in Fort Myers.

Abraham reported from Fort Myers, Cafardo from Port St. Lucie.

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