Gonzalez to get chance at first base

Gonzalez to get chance at first base

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The hometown kid appears to be San Diego bound.

Those clamoring for a youth movement in the border city apparently will be getting their wish with a pair of 23-year-old newcomers -- sophomore Adrian Gonzalez and freshman Josh Barfield -- manning the right side of the Padres' infield as the new season opens.

Gonzalez, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft by Florida out of Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, southeast of San Diego, is set to assume the job on Opening Day against the Giants on Monday at PETCO Park.

Veteran Ryan Klesko, the anticipated starter after making the shift from left field, seems ticketed for the disabled list.

Klesko, who has continuing issues with his left shoulder and had an injection on Monday, has missed four consecutive Cactus League games. He has said he expects to have surgery on the shoulder after the season.

"There's a good probability he may go on the disabled list," manager Bruce Bochy said of Klesko, who would be eliglble to return April 11. "We want him real close, if not 100 percent. That's the biggest thing for him and the club.

"We feel like we can give him a little time now and retro this [to March 25] rather than throw him out in a game and aggravate it, [then] it's another 15 days. We're in a situation where we can give him a little more time. It's a good thing for him."

That also would be a good thing for the Gonzalez family of Chula Vista, which would rise in numbers and cheer Adrian in his homecoming against the Giants.

"My wife [Betsy], my parents, the whole family will be [excited] if that happens," Gonzalez said. "Friends and family already have bought 40 season tickets. There'll probably be a lot more there."

Showing he's prepared to join Barfield -- the rookie second baseman -- in the youth movement, Gonzalez slammed his second spring homer along with two doubles and a single, driving in three runs in Wednesday's wind-blown 13-11 decision over the Rangers at Surprise Stadium.

Gonzalez, whose homer to center came against former Padre Akinori Otsuka, is batting .400 in 10 games, with 25 at-bats.

Barfield is hitting .392 after going 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs, giving him a club-high 17.

Bochy has been impressed with the demeanor of both young athletes, marveling at their poise along with their production.

Gonzalez has been coming on strong in the past week, dazzling with the glove while hammering the ball, after spending the bulk of the spring with Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.

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"He's like a magician out there in drills we do," Barfield said, grinning. "It's amazing some of the things he can do with the glove."

Gonzalez had 150 at-bats with the Rangers last season, spelling Mark Teixeira at first base and spending some time as a DH. He batted .227 with six homers and 17 RBIs. At Triple-A Oklahoma, he batted .338.

Bochy had intriguing reports on Gonzalez and agrees that he couldn't do much more to make a positive impression.

"He's had some good at-bats against lefties," Bochy said. "I like the way he hangs in there against lefties. He's had two games where every at-bat has been a quality one.

"He looks like a very determined young man right now."

Gonzalez was part of the Jan. 4 six-player swap with Texas that also made Padres of pitcher Chris Young and outfielder Terrmel Sleldge.

When there was talk that Gonzalez might be a victim of a numbers crunch and start the season at Triple-A Portland, he mentioned that he didn't think that would benefit him, having already paid his dues at that level.

"I'd rather, with the situation I'm in, to be on the [Padres'] bench, see pitchers live, study film, get late-inning at-bats," he said. "I'd get more out of that.

"My mentality was never to do anything out of the ordinary. It was to play the game and be good enough to be on the 25-man roster. I never pressed. I talked to Boch, and he said it didn't matter if you go 0-for-4 ... just play the game."

Solidly constructed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Gonzalez made an adjustment in his approach at the plate, and he feels it is paying off with drives to all fields.

"I slowed myself down [Wednesday], my stride and timing," he said. "Instead of going and getting the ball, I got to where I was letting it come to me. I'm just trying to have a good approach and stay within myself, trying to have good at-bats."

Playing first base in the Classic for Mexico, where he spent much of his youth in Tijuana, Gonzalez doesn't believe the intensity of the those tournament games necessarily got him emotionally ready for the challenge with the Padres.

"You have intensity every time you go out there," he said. "Whether it's a Spring Training game or a regular-season game, you're going to be well prepared. It's just part of you."

The Padres clearly appreciate every part of Gonzalez -- including his age and future.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.