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Adrian Gonzalez gunning for 162

03.13.11 at 12:33 pm ET
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Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez reported no setbacks one day after his first game of the spring. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — On Saturday, when Adrian Gonzalez played in his first game as a member of the Red Sox, it was a noteworthy event. It represented a milestone in his recovery from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

Now that his first game is out of the way, however, it seems safe to say that the presence of Gonzalez’ name in the lineup won’t be a novelty for long. Gonzalez made that much clear when asked what kind of goals he had in terms of games played in the 2011 season.

“I want to play every game,” Gonzalez said.

The 28-year-old has played at least 160 games in each of the last four seasons, including the full slate of 162 games in 2008 for the Padres. But there’s more.

“I played winter ball after that sometimes,” said Gonzalez. “I have in the past, not in the past few years because of injuries, but before that I did.”

Asked whether fatigue entered the picture at any point while assuming such a workload, Gonzalez seemed amused.

“I’m a first baseman,” he noted. “How much energy do you really put out there? I don’t steal bases. I don’t run fast. I play first base. As long as my legs can take it, I’m good. Thank God, up until now my legs have been good enough to take it.”

Indeed, Gonzalez leads the majors in regular season games played since the start of the 2007 season with 643, an average of just under 161 per season. He said that he has never asked a manager for a day off in his life. Quite the contrary.

“I’ve gotten into an argument for him to try to give me a day off,” said Gonzalez. “The times they’ve given me a day off, I’m really annoying in the dugout, so the next time they’re like, ‘Let’s just throw him out there so he’s not annoying me.’”

There might, of course, be a bit more to it than that, given Gonzalez’ status as one of the best players in the majors. Thus far, his progression this spring is such that he feels confident that he will be ready for a full workload once the regular season does arrive.

One day after his first game, Gonzalez took stock of the status of his shoulder and recovery this spring, noting that he continues to feel improvement, and that his batting practice today felt better than the day before. There was no anxiety when he woke up this morning to see how his shoulder would respond to his workload.

“The only thing anxious was making sure I got here on time with the hour change,” said Gonzalez. “My phone changed the hour on its own. I forgot about it.”

He is slated to play in Monday night’s exhibition game against the Yankees, where he will politic with manager Terry Francona for three at-bats.

“I’ll have to talk Tito into it. We’ll see how that goes,” said Gonzalez. “If you see a brawl in the dugout, you’ll know what that’s about.”

With his return to games, there are no more milestones for Gonzalez to achieve. He is now engaged in the full slate of activities that he will need to prepare for the season.

That is not, however, to say that his rehab course is now complete. There is still physical recovery from the surgery to achieve, and Gonzalez is still working to build his workload so that he can better simulate the activities that he will need to prepare for games in the regular season.

“It’s still just recovering for me. I’m still not 100 percent recovered. I’m good enough to play and all that, but as far as being 100 percent, it’s still not there yet,” said Gonzalez. “It’s about endurance or stamina. It gets to a point where if I take too many swings or swing real hard a numerous amount of times, I feel the fatigue. It’s part of building that up so if I need to take a full round of swinging hard, I can do it without any kind of fatigue. It’s not about strength. It’s not about those kinds of things. It’s about going through a day’s work.

“Right now,” Gonzalez explained, “if I needed to take an extra 20 swings in the cage to get my swing right, I wouldn’t be able to do that because I would just wear it down. So everything now is really controlled: You’re only going to take this many swings there, this many swings here, this many swings before the game, then when the game starts, X amount of swings. That’s it. Right now, it’s not, ‘Hey, I need to take an extra 30 swings to be ready.’ If I go in the cage before the game to get my swing right, and 20 swings in it doesn’t feel good, oh well. I take that swing into the game. I don’t have the ability to take another 20.”

That said, judging by how his rehab has progressed to this point, and his mood the day after his first Red Sox game, it would appear that time is not too far down the road. For now, Gonzalez will play roughly every other day, and then likely get into back-to-back games sometime next week, perhaps just before the off-day on March 23.

But to this point, it Gonzalez’ spring has been a relatively calm undertaking with few burdens on his time. While the Grapefruit League schedule is viewed as a hardship compared to the Cactus League games in Arizona due to the cross-state travel to play games in Florida, Gonzalez has yet to experience that.

“This is better than Arizona right now,” Gonzalez mused. “I’ve been in Fort Myers the entire time.”

The time to travel and play will come. For now, Gonzalez continues to build back to full strength, in anticipation of what he hopes will be a long season with few off-days once the Sox break camp.

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