But after eventually shutting things down and undergoing "Tommy John" surgery on Aug. 2, in which it was learned the ligament was completely torn, Gonzalez and the Diamondbacks plan to be a lot more cautious heading into spring training.
In meetings with manager Bob Melvin and head athletic trainer Paul Lessard, Gonzalez resigned himself to the fact that he likely won't play in nearly as many Cactus League games in 2005 in order to lessen strain on his arm. He'll get plenty of at-bats -- his hitting wasn't nearly as affected as his throwing from left field was -- but most of his bat time will come in minor league games and on back fields as the club's spring headquarters in Tucson.
"He's learned through injuries now that he has to be honest," Melvin said. "Before, he could have a bone sticking out of his leg and 162 was always on his mind. He wanted to play 162 games, and that's because he's an accountable guy. ... We're definitely going to monitor how he feels each and every day, and if I feel it's not worth running him out there one day to make some throws because we're risking some down time, then I'm not going to do it."
Gonzalez, who played in all 162 games during the 2000 and 2001 seasons, still managed to play in 105 games in 2004 despite his ailing elbow. His rehab is slightly ahead of schedule, at least in his eyes, and he's been playing catch and throwing from short distances without any problems. He threw a football the other day and said, "I felt like Tom Brady out there," referring to the Patriots' quarterback.
The surgery hasn't affected his hitting whatsoever, and Gonzalez said he expects that he and fellow sluggers Troy Glaus and Shawn Green will put up big numbers in Arizona's quest to turn around last season's 51-111 finish.
"I'm excited. There's no doubt about it," he said. "I'm ready to get back on the field. I know I'm not going to be a full year recovered from the surgery, but I'm glad I did it when I did. I probably should have done it earlier, but looking back at it, I wanted to be out on the field. I'm just glad I got it done, and I feel good now."
As for any hindrance he might be in the outfield with his arm, Gonzalez said he guarantees his throws will be better and stronger than they were last spring. With the ligament fixed, he won't be playing mind games in his own head and can trust his arm again. He is working hard to strengthen his right shoulder, which atrophied a bit because of different throwing motions he made to compensate for the strain on his elbow.
"He was never Andre Dawson to begin with," Melvin said of Gonzalez's arm strength. "Left fielders, as long as they charge the ball and hit the cutoff man right away, guys aren't going to be going first to third in your face. They're not going to be going second to home when they're at third and you've got the ball. As long as he gets it to the infielder, we'll be able to deal with whatever limitations he has out there."
--LHP Randy Choate and RHP Brandon Lyon skipped arbitration by agreeing to new deals with the Diamondbacks. Choate signed a two-year deal worth $1.3 million, and Lyon agreed to a one-year deal worth $330,000 in base pay plus incentives that could earn him $500,000.
RHP Mike Koplove and LHP Casey Fossum, meanwhile, remain arbitration eligible and had yet to come to terms.
--RHP Jose Jimenez, who went 1-7 with eight saves and a 8.42 ERA last season for Cleveland but before that recorded 102 saves over four seasons with Colorado, signed a minor league contract with Arizona and will get a shot to make the team out of spring training.
"What interests us about him is that he has closer experience on his resume," GM Joe Garagiola Jr. said. "We don't see him as a closer ... but it's an opportunity for us to look at him for six weeks and see how our bullpen fits together."
Right-handed Greg Aquino, who set a club rookie record with 16 saves in 2004, enters spring training as the club's closer.
--The Diamondbacks planned to revisit contract negotiations this week with shortstop Stephen Drew, their first-round pick in last June's draft.
--LF Luis Gonzalez, asked how a team that lost 111 games a year ago can possibly win the NL West the following year: "Well, I don't think that team is here anymore. I mean, if you look at it, there might be a handful of those guys who are still left. You look at this year's lineup, there might be one or two guys in it from last year. The rest is new faces. They're new faces but with a lot of experience at this level."
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- The only returning player on the field to be in the Diamondbacks' Opening Day lineups in both 2003 and 2004 is LF Luis Gonzalez.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no doubt in my mind we can come close to reversing our record." -- RHP Russ Ortiz on the Diamondbacks' chances in 2005 after finishing last in the majors with a 51-111 record in 2004.
RHP Jose Jimenez was signed to a minor league contract with a chance to make the club in spring training.
The Diamondbacks signed RHP Brandon Lyon and LHP Randy Choate, avoiding arbitration hearings with both players.
ARRIVALS: RF Shawn Green (trade with Dodgers), RHP Javier Vazquez and LHP Brad Halsey (trade with Yankees), LHP Shawn Estes (free agent from Colorado), 3B Troy Glaus (free agent from Anaheim). RHP Russ Ortiz (free agent from Atlanta), SS Royce Clayton (free agent from Colorado), INF Craig Counsell (free agent from Milwaukee), C Kelly Stinnett (free agent from Kansas City), RHP Jose Jimenez (free agent from Cleveland).
DEPARTURES: LHP Randy Johnson (traded to Yankees), 1B Shea Hillenbrand (traded to Toronto), RHP Casey Daigle (designated for assignment, moved off 40-man roster), 1B Richie Sexson (free agent, signed with Seattle), RHP Shane Reynolds (released), RHP Matt Mantai (free agent, signed with Boston), RHP Andrew Good (released, signed with Detroit), LHP Shane Nance (non-tendered), Danny Bautista (free agent, signed with Tampa Bay).
BIGGEST NEEDS: The Diamondbacks still want a major league center fielder, and their top target is Oakland's Eric Byrnes.
FREE AGENTS: RHPs Shane Reynolds, Steve Sparks, Mike Fetters and Scott Service; INFs Greg Colbrunn and Carlos Baerga.
The Diamondbacks offered arbitration to 1B Richie Sexson, but he left as a free agent and signed with Seattle.
IN LIMBO: SS Alex Cintron.
Cintron spent the last six weeks of the season at second base and will compete with Counsell there now that Clayton has been signed to play short.
MEDICAL WATCH: LF Luis Gonzalez, who underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right throwing elbow, will be watched closely in spring training to make sure he has recovered.