Gonzalez (back) returns to the lineup Sunday


Gonzalez (back) returns to the lineup Sunday

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- To the surprise of his own manager, Adrian Gonzalez was back in the lineup Sunday after missing the first two games of the series here.

Gonzalez was slowed by back spasms for the first two games against Tampa Bay, having felt the back "lock up" when he bent down Friday. On Saturday, Valentine seemed to dismiss any hope that Gonzalez would play in the series finale, but found otherwise.

"He said he feels much better and he's in the lineup,'' said Valentine. "If something happens after batting practice and he spasms and he feels it, we'll make an adjustment. But he said he's ready to go today. That's very good news.''

Gonzalez arrived early for treatment in the trainer's room and, according to Valentine, "tested better. I was a little surprised, actually. Pleasantly surprised.''

Outfielder Ryan Sweeney, meanwhile, is still nursing a tight hamstring.

"Another day is probably the way to go with him,'' said Valentine.

Sweeney has orthotics in his shoes to deal with a stress fracture under his toe and they may have altered his method of running, causing the tightness in his hamstring.

Saturday night, Sweeney acknowledged that the artificial surface at Tropicana Field probably hasn't helped.