Gonzo Recovers; Nippert Battles

Luis Gonzalez was hitting, he wasn't fielder, and he certainly couldn't throw. A professional, he never complained, and now, after Tommy John surgery in the offseason, manager Bob Melvin thinks his progress is remarkable. ALSO: Dustin Nippert the quiet dark horse for the #5 spot; Carlos Tosca 'Takes It Like A Champ'; Medders, Heredia, and El Duque all make progress.

    The wrap around his surgically repaired right elbow is gone. And so
is the pain that accompanied him following Tommy John surgery. Left
fielder Luis Gonzalez is back, and he's feeling better than ever.
    On Thursday against the San Diego Padres, the veteran hit his first
home run of the spring and showed decent arm strength on a throw to the
cutoff man. The runner would have been out at the plate had catcher
Chris Snyder not dropped the ball.
    All in all, it's been a good start for Gonzalez, who is entering the
final year of his contract. He beefed up in the offseason, and although
he's never had the greatest arm in left, it's stronger than ever.
    "I think he'll admit he wasn't an Andre Dawson out there," manager
Bob Melvin said, "but he's certainly in position to hit the cutoff man
and he charges the ball very hard. He'll be able to throw guys out at
second base and keep them from going from first to third. He's a lot
further along than he was last spring, no question."
    Gonzalez had surgery at the end of the 2004 season and spent much of
last season still playing in pain and discomfort.
    "What he never admitted to last year was it bothered him hitting,
too," Melvin said. "He'll say (it didn't) because that's the kind of
guy he is, but there were times it bothered him plenty good last year

    --LHP Felix Heredia, in camp as a non-roster invitee, is scheduled
to make his second appearance Friday in an effort to make the bullpen.
Heredia's control has been somewhat of an issue, and in his last outing
he didn't get much sink on his pitches and had trouble bringing it
inside to right-handers.
    --RHP Brandon Medders will play catch Friday if a strained muscle in
his right scapula area allows. If all goes well, he will continue the
process before trying a bullpen session early next week. Medders has
been slowed all camp with the injury and might not be ready for the
season if he doesn't start showing significant progress.
    --Manager Bob Melvin on RHP Dustin Nippert, who will start Friday's
game against the Brewers: "We envision him, once he's here, being here
for quite a while. You never know how things are going to work out.
Certainly he's a guy we talked about potentially being in the five
spot. Are (Claudio) Vargas and (Brad) Halsey the leading candidates?
Yeah. But he's right there in the next wave. I wouldn't put anything
past him."
    --CF Eric Byrnes sent third base coach Carlos Tosca a vase of
flowers as an apology for drilling the coach in the right foot with a
foul line drive during a game earlier this week. Tosca suffered a
fractured bone and will be sidelined up to four weeks.
    "When it happened, it didn't seem like it phased him," Byrnes said.
"But I was worried. To tell you the truth, that was probably the
hardest hit ball off my bat all spring. I even told him in the card,
'Way to take it like a champ!'"
    --RHP Orlando Hernandez was bothered by the flu, but he still
pitched three effective innings against the Padres on Thursday. He
allowed two runs on two hits and two walks. He struck out four. "I had
to go out and do my job," he said afterward.

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