FORT MYERS, Fla. With Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz among the onlookers, Adrian Gonzalez took batting practice on the field Sunday morning for the first time as he continues to progress from offseason shoulder surgery.
Hitting against Triple-A Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler, Gonzalez took about 35 swings on the field at City of Palms Park while the Red Sox traveled to Port St. Lucie to play the Mets.
It was fine, Gonzalez said. Ive been feeling good the whole time, and its good to get out there.
Batting coach Dave Magadan was pleased with what he saw.
He looked great, Magadan said. He looked like he was in midseason form. The ball was coming off his bat with authority, and he was able to drive balls out to left field, pulled some balls, drove them out to right field. He was fantastic.
Getting out of the batting cage and onto the field is just one more step in Gonzalezs progression from October surgery to clean up the labrum in his right non-throwing shoulder, after originally injuring it diving for a foul ball in May in Houston.
I know hes been kind of chomping at the bit, Magadan said. You get tired of just hitting in the cage all the time. So Im sure it was nice for him to be able to get out there and see the flight of the ball and get a feel for how hes driving the ball.
Hitting on the field allows Gonzalez to assess the progression of his swing.
The pitchers throwing the same way in the cage as he is here, so the only thing that you want to see from a hitters perspective is you want to see the trajectory of the ball," he said. "And we get to see the full length of the trajectory and all that. You get to see if you got good backspin on the ball or not and those kind of things. In the cage the ball hits the net before you tend to realize that. So, it feels good."
Gonzalez hit a few balls out. But hes not concerned with that right now.
I dont really care about that, he said. Im just trying to put a good swing on the ball, feel like Im on top of the ball and through it. For me its more important how the ball goes to left-center, if Im getting that good backspin, or if Im cutting my swing off a little bit, those kinds of things.
Now Gonzalez just needs to build up his tolerance and load on each swing, Magadan said, continuing to work in the cage and on the field, increasing the velocity of the pitches hes seeing.
Hes done everything he had to do, Magadan said. Now its just tolerance. Hell continue his progression, maybe take more swings in the cage, soft toss or tee. He didnt do that much today, and then make it comparable to what hes taking in batting practice. When he feels like getting ready, its up to him.
Were trying increase the load of each swing. Before it was a little more controlled off the tee and soft toss. Now he ups it to batting practice. From there, he can get it with some velocity coming at him. Id like to see him hit in the cage off a machine with something really throwing hard where hes got to react more. But, once hes done that it's just up to him when he feels like hes ready.
In his first season with the Red Sox, Gonzalez has yet to appear in a Red Sox game and has no timetable to do so yet. He will not hit tomorrow, resuming his swings on Tuesday.
I have to see how I respond tomorrow, he said. From the medical perspective hitting on the field is a little more intense. Youre putting more stress on the shoulder. So thats the reason for taking tomorrow off, to see how it responds, and get back to it on Tuesday.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen