Adrian Gonzalez arrives at camp
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- No entourage, no handlers, no posse, no agent, no gofers, no welcoming committee.
For his first day in Red Sox camp, more than a week ahead of when he was due to report with the other Sox players, Adrian Gonzalez arrived Wednesday morning, unplugged.
"Very, very easy,'' traveling secretary Jack McCormick said of Gonzalez's arrival. "No one was out there greeting him. He just walked in, like anyone.''
No one expected any different.
"Word travels fast about a guy,'' one Red Sox official said.
The night before, Brett Bodine, Boston's coordinator of Florida business operations, met Gonzalez and his wife, Betsy, at the airport and took them to their spring training residence. McCormick supervised the unloading of Gonzalez's car, which had been shipped out from San Diego.
Bodine left Gonzalez with directions on how to get to the team's minor league training facility, and Wednesday morning at around 9:30, Gonzalez pulled into the parking lot and walked into camp, carrying his own equipment bag, undetected by the small group of reporters already assembled. No gaggle of TV cameras, like the ones that used to await the choreographed arrivals of Pedro Martinez or Manny Ramirez. Gonzalez could have been one of the minor leaguers who have been down there the last couple of weeks.
He visited with Tom McLaughlin, the clubhouse man, picked up some T-shirts and shorts. About an hour and a half later, Gonzalez emerged from the clubhouse, where he had been working out, and strolled over to the field where several players were taking batting practice.
He wandered to the outfield, where he shagged and played catch with David Renfroe, a 20-year-old infielder who last season played for the Lowell Spinners and whose father, Laddie, grew up in Nashua, N.H., and pitched four games in the big leagues as a reliever for the Cubs.
"Buena suerte,'' a fan called out from beyond the fence, wishing Gonzalez good luck in Spanish.
"Gracias, papi,'' Gonzalez said with a little wave as he strolled back to the cage.
"Still throwing that Little League changeup?'' he called out to Kevin Boles, the minor league manager who was throwing batting practice.
Boles had been with the Florida Marlins when Gonzalez was drafted first overall in 2000, and was Gonzalez's first manager in pro ball. "You're never going to let me forget that, are you?'' he said.
Gonzalez took some ground balls at first base. "I'm probably going to be throwing it all over the place,'' he said by way of apology.
He acknowledged a reporter he'd already met in San Diego. "Like the first day at a new school?" the reporter asked, alluding to Gonzalez having changed teams for the third time, first from the Marlins to the Rangers, then the Padres and now the Red Sox.
"Same old, same old,'' he said. "Just different fields.''
He walked over to another field, where players were running with parachute-type devices strapped to their backs for resistance, and joked about his lack of speed. But soon enough, there he was, doing agility drills and, yes, running like a paratrooper.
A couple of hours later, after disappearing into the clubhouse to exercise his legs and receive a massage, Gonzalez came out to oblige the reporters waiting for him. He was all dark eyes and thick, black eyebrows, a full mustache and a few days' growth on his chin. His answers were direct and concise.
His surgically repaired right shoulder was coming along nicely, he said, to the point where he was probably ahead of his target date of March 1 to start swinging a bat. He was waiting, he said, to get clearance from Dr. David Altchek, the orthopedic surgeon who performed the operation to repair a torn labrum last October, and Red Sox trainer Mike Reinold.
"Between Mike and Dr. Altchek, we'll have an exact date,'' he said. "I assume I'm ahead of schedule. My workouts are pretty normal now. I'm getting my full range of motion back, getting strength.''
Other than not hitting, he said, he expects to be able to participate fully in the other drills with his teammates when camp officially opens. Too soon to predict when he would appear in exhibition games, he said.
"I can't give you a day,'' he said. "All I can tell you is I'll be ready for Opening Day.''
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His contact with manager Terry Francona, he said, has been "very minimal ... [just] how's it going?"
"I don't expect dialogue until we're closer to the season, playing,'' he said. "No point jumping ahead until the day comes when we're playing games.''
It was a theme he reverted to several times during the interview -- everything in due time.
His contract extension, which probably won't be consummated until after the season starts, the most opportune timetable for the Sox from a luxury tax standpoint?
"We don't have any deadlines, anything like that,'' he said. "When I'm healthy and they see I'm healthy and we all decide it's time to sit down and talk about something like that, we'll do that. There's no rush for anything. I think the main thing for me is to get healthy.''
Hitting in Fenway?
"I'm looking forward to it,'' he said, "but I don't like to jump ahead of schedule, I don't like to get ahead of myself. I look forward to getting ready for spring hitting.''
Someone mentioned that the Sox are being touted as favorites to go to the World Series.
"You've got to play the season out,'' he said. "Everybody last year predicted the Padres to be last.''
The Padres, Gonzalez's former team, were in contention for a postseason spot until the season's final weekend.
With the Red Sox, of course, Gonzalez is moving into a much brighter spotlight. That matters little to him, he said.
"I'm not looking forward to any kind of spotlight,'' he said. "I'm looking forward to playing the game, playing on a great team, and hopefully winning a World Series."
Gonzalez wore a red Red Sox T-shirt on Wednesday. When the games begin, he will wear No. 28. Mike Cameron offered him No. 23, the number Gonzalez wore in San Diego, but Gonzalez declined, saying the number had no significance for him -- it was just the number the Padres had assigned him.
He chose his number with the Red Sox after researching a little Biblical numerology.
"No. 28," he said, "is God providing courage and strength, so I went with that."
Outside the parking lot, a few fans waited patiently. Gonzalez had told them he'd sign some autographs when he was done.
"Seems like a good guy,'' one fan said to a departing reporter. "Is he?''
He would know soon enough. Word travels fast about a guy.
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.