"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.