Nevin hopes to play in opener

Updated: March 15, 2004, 7:43 PM ET
Associated Press

PEORIA, Ariz. -- San Diego Padres slugger Phil Nevin walked onto a practice field in shorts and a T-shirt, and right into some ribbing from David Wells.

"You got a pass to get on the field?" Wells hollered from across the diamond.

Nevin's at least inching closer to getting back into uniform after straining his left shoulder diving for a ball at first base in a spring game on March 7. He's out of the sling that helped immobilize the shoulder, and he began rehabilitation Monday afternoon at a Tempe clinic.

"It feels good, actually," Nevin said. "Hopefully, this time next week I can at least be out here running around. I don't know if it's going to be swinging a bat. Definitely in a couple of weeks I can do that."

Nevin, the Padres' cleanup hitter, hopes to play in some of the final spring games, including two against Seattle at San Diego's new Petco Park April 3-4. He hopes to be ready for opening day April 5 at Los Angeles.

"I know Phil; he's going to be determined," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We're going to make that call. As bad as he wants to be there opening day, it's more important that we have him right and have him for the season."

Once he can swing a bat, "getting my timing down offensively is going to be the biggest thing now," Nevin said. "It's as strong as it was going to be before I got hurt. By sitting only a week or two without doing stuff, it shouldn't take that long to get all that back."

Nevin knows the rehab drill well. This injury came a year to the day he dislocated the same shoulder, which required surgery and kept him sidelined until July 23.

"It's not fun," Nevin said. "All these guys will be out playing a game and I'll be in there."

Last spring's injury happened while Nevin was diving for a ball in left field.

Nevin has already received calls from several friends, all with the same message: Don't dive.

"I've always said, it'd be pretty tough to change the way you play," Nevin said. "Those things are reaction. It took a while for me last year to get comfortable going down to the ground to slide. Obviously there's something wrong technique-wise. I see guys dive every day and not get hurt. And it seems like every time I do, I do get hurt.

"It's probably going to be in the back of my mind not to leave my feet headfirst," he said. "Only time will tell with that. This kind of scared me, because I thought it was fixed and everything was fine."

Nevin said it was the sixth time since high school that he hurt his shoulder.

"It can only happen so many times before somebody says you can't play anymore," he said.

General manager Kevin Towers doesn't know how Nevin can change his approach.

"When you're taught to be aggressive, you've got a game on the line and a ball's a couple steps to your right, your instincts are to leave your feet," Towers said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press