WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Adrian Gonzalez’s normal spring training workday begins right around sunrise, when he gets to the ballpark before most teammates for a four-step, 90-minute maintenance program meant to manage the lower back discomfort that cost him most of last season.
Warmup, stretch, massage, core/back exercises — and then the team-wide part of the day starts, with fielding drills and batting practice and usually an exhibition game.
That’s life these days for Gonzalez, a 35-year-old first baseman with back issues.
“Anybody in baseball I’ve seen with a back issue, I’ve seen them always do these things. And I’ve always been like, ‘Man, you do a lot of work,’ ” Gonzalez said. “And they’re like, ‘You have to.’ Now I understand why. It’s a maintenance program. It’s something you have to do.”
Gonzalez said after going through the daily program, he is able to participate in the team workout with no symptoms or restrictions.
That’s a good thing, because his workday is longer than most teammates’ at the other end, too. He has asked manager Mickey Callaway to leave him in exhibition games longer so he can get as many at-bats as possible.
Gonzalez said during his first at-bat or two in a given game, “it’s almost like . . . I’m a little jumpy.” His most productive work, as far as getting into a rhythm, comes in the third and fourth plate appearances.
Thursday was one such instance. After flying out and striking out early, Gonzalez walked and singled late.
Gonzalez is 5-for-24 (.208) with one extra-base hit through eight games. He has struck out five times and walked twice.
“Everything I came into spring wanting to do I’ve been able to do,” Gonzalez said. “I feel like keep getting at-bats, my swing, my everything, my timing, my rhythm — it’s going to continue to get better and get to where I want to be. Come Opening Day, I should be in a really good position.”
After opening spring training in a purported job competition with prospect Dominic Smith, Gonzalez projects to be the starting first baseman. Smith hasn’t played since Feb. 24 because of a strained right quad.
Familia roughed up
Closer Jeurys Familia got hit around for five runs in 1 1⁄3 innings. He allowed four hits and one walk.
He said he felt some tightness in his right (throwing) shoulder, but that’s normal for this time of year as his body gets used to throwing every day.
“Every year I deal with this stuff,” he said.
Callaway said he expects shortstop Amed Rosario (groin soreness) to return to the lineup as the designated hitter Friday in Lakeland against the Tigers. The plan is for Rosario then to play the field Saturday in Tampa against the Yankees . . . Outfielder Brandon Nimmo continues to mash out of the leadoff spot, doubling and tripling against the Nationals. He is 10-for-26 (.385) this spring with a .846 slugging percentage (two doubles, two triples, two homers).