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Adrian Gonzalez Ahead Of Schedule, Eying Return To Batting Cages

While official medical clearance is needed, new Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez believes that he has fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery and is ready to pick up a bat, step into the batting cages, and hit for the first time since the end of last season.

"Zero discomforts, zero limitations,'' Gonzalez said Thursday, the official reporting date for position players. "I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be post-surgery, so everything's going as planned. It feels great. I know I could swing today if I wanted to, but there's no rush.''

(Via Gordon Edes)

The projected day for Gonzalez to begin swinging a bat was set at March 1.  However, according to Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, Gonzalez is set to travel up to visit Mets orthepedic surgeon Dr. David Altchek, who repaired the torn labrum in his right shoulder, in order to gain medical clearance to swing a bat.  While the date isn't officially set, Gonzalez will likely travel up to Port St. Lucie early next week.

Even if he is given medical clearance, Gonzalez's playing status for the Red Sox opening Spring Training game against the Minnesota Twins in two weeks is still unclear.

This comes as great news to Red Sox fans, as the only hurdle left in a potential Gonzalez extension appears to be have been cleared. Still, the team will evaluate him over the next month to make sure his shoulder is fine.  If earlier rumors and reports are true, Red Sox and Gonzalez will likely agree to a seven-year, 154 million dollar extension sometime around opening day.  This way Gonzalez's contract will not count towards this year's payroll, avoiding any luxury tax implications.

In the meantime, Gonzalez continues to field ground balls at first base without pain or discomfort, which gives Red Sox fans optimism that Gonzalez will in fact put up big numbers for the Red Sox in 2011.