Notes: Podsednik not rushing return

Notes: Podsednik not rushing return

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Scott Podsednik now can readily admit that the excitement of starting in left field for the defending World Series champions on Opening Day 2006 was simply too much to pass up.

The same held true concerning the season's second home game against Cleveland and being part of the moving pregame ring ceremony. A Spring Training full of shoulder and groin issues left the fleet-footed leadoff man with only 22 Cactus League at-bats and not quite perfectly prepared to start the 2006 season with the White Sox.

But Podsednik pushed himself hard to return early nonetheless. As Podsednik works presently to come back from offseason sports hernia surgery leading into the 2007 season, he knows in his mind that the mistake of returning too soon won't be made again.

On Saturday afternoon, after a full-morning workout that has him ahead of schedule, Podsednik said that a trip to the disabled list was a possibility to start the 2007 campaign if his recovery wasn't absolutely complete.

"Well, if it need be, yes," said a straightforward Podsednik, who seems very upbeat in regard to the work he's already done in a short period of time in Tucson. "My goal is not to make Opening Day. My goal is to come back whenever I do come back and be 100 percent so I can come out and help the team.

"I don't want to push myself just to take the field Opening Day and jeopardize at-bats or not being the best for the squad. Whenever I'm ready and 100 percent, whenever that happens to be, that's when it's going to be."

Podsednik's workouts have consisted of taking what he deemed as pretty close to normal batting practice sessions, as well as straight-ahead running. Podsednik said that within the next week, his program will progress to some "curve running, arc running" and then some plant and cutting, all maneuvers that simulate actual baserunning.

Running the bases at full force would be the deciding factor in Podsednik's mind as to when he can declare himself close to prepared.

"Sprinting and running the bases will be the main thing," Podsednik said. "I want to concentrate on my baserunning this year, be able to go first to third and run the bases efficiently.

"When I feel I can put the spikes on and go out and plant and cut and accelerate, that's the turning point," Podsednik added.

That point could come prior to the end of Spring Training for Podsednik, or it might take a few weeks into the regular season to get up to full speed. All parties involved agree, including Podsednik, that patience should be a virtue in this particular situation.

"It's tough," Podsednik said. "That's why I'm having to try to calm myself down, seeing the guys go out there and taking [batting practice] and doing these other things. I want to kind of press on the gas a little bit. But I am getting all my work in, and I'm older and wiser now, I hope, so I can hold myself back."

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"You see him walking around the field like he's going crazy, and I worry about that," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen added. "But I don't want him to be Opening Day just to be Opening Day. I just want him, when he's ready to play, do it for good."

Test of strength: When asked about his first Spring Training with the White Sox, Darin Erstad explained how it wasn't much different from the decade's worth he went through with the Angels.

"I feel great," Erstad said. "You take bumps and bruises early on, break a few bats and go out and look stupid, but it's a part of the process. In a couple of weeks, everything will be rolling and ready to go."

There are some built-in changes this spring for the veteran outfielder. For starters, the 32-year-old is one of the outfield's elder statesmen, competing with a plethora of young talent for a starting job in either center or left, depending on Podsednik's health. Erstad is also coming off October arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle to remove bone spurs, and he's looking to bounce back from a 2006 season featuring just 95 at-bats.

Much like Podsednik, Erstad feels healthy and has reported no pain or problems after workouts. But even with a doctor's clearance to go full speed in December, Erstad still has a little convincing to do in his own mind once Cactus League play begins.

"It gives you confidence in your mind when the doctor says the joint is good," Erstad said. "It's just getting through those mental hurdles. I'll have to get through some of them as the games go on, just to let it loose, but I feel great and I don't see it being a problem."

Let the games begin: Guillen announced his pitching rotation for the first five games of spring, including Monday's intrasquad action and Thursday's split-squad with Arizona at home and at Hi Corbett Field against the Rockies. Gavin Floyd, Charlie Haeger and Nick Masset will each throw two innings for one side during Monday morning's six-inning affair, with Jose Contreras throwing two and Oneli Perez, Andrew Sisco, David Aardsma and Eduardo Sierra each getting one on the other side.

Mark Buehrle will get the opening Cactus League nod against the Rockies, followed by Jon Garland, John Danks, Mike MacDougal, Bobby Jenks and Matt Thornton. Javier Vazquez will start at Tucson Electric Park against the Diamondbacks, with Lance Broadway, Sisco, Aardsma, Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Bukvich also getting work. Heath Phillips, Haeger and Boone Logan will face the Rockies.

Contreras and Floyd will lead the lineup on Friday against Arizona. While Guillen eagerly awaits the chance to watch all of his young arms facing opposing hitters, he'll keep a close watch on Floyd as the fifth starter front-runner.

"Floyd, I like the way he throws," Guillen said. "Haeger is in the mix. A few people like Masset in the starting rotation. We'll have to wait and see. Right now, the way he's throwing, I'm not leaning to it, but we're going to take a look at Floyd and see how he does."

Around the horn: Catcher Gustavo Molina still has not arrived from Venezuela, although Guillen thinks he should be in shape after playing winter ball. "It's a shame for him," Guillen said. "But I'm not going to punish this kid for something not in his hands." ... Guillen once again pointed to Pablo Ozuna as his probable leadoff man for Opening Day against left-hander C.C. Sabathia. Ozuna also could serve as an emergency center fielder, according to Guillen, but he wouldn't start in that position.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.