Nevin hopes to play in opener

PEORIA, Ariz. -- San Diego Padres slugger Phil Nevin walked onto a practice field in shorts and a T-shirt, and right into some ribbing from David Wells.

"You got a pass to get on the field?" Wells hollered from
across the diamond.

Nevin's at least inching closer to getting back into uniform
after straining his left shoulder diving for a ball at first base
in a spring game on March 7. He's out of the sling that helped
immobilize the shoulder, and he began rehabilitation Monday
afternoon at a Tempe clinic.

"It feels good, actually," Nevin said. "Hopefully, this time
next week I can at least be out here running around. I don't know
if it's going to be swinging a bat. Definitely in a couple of weeks
I can do that."

Nevin, the Padres' cleanup hitter, hopes to play in some of the
final spring games, including two against Seattle at San Diego's
new Petco Park April 3-4. He hopes to be ready for opening day
April 5 at Los Angeles.

"I know Phil; he's going to be determined," manager Bruce
Bochy said. "We're going to make that call. As bad as he wants to
be there opening day, it's more important that we have him right
and have him for the season."

Once he can swing a bat, "getting my timing down offensively is
going to be the biggest thing now," Nevin said. "It's as strong
as it was going to be before I got hurt. By sitting only a week or
two without doing stuff, it shouldn't take that long to get all
that back."

Nevin knows the rehab drill well. This injury came a year to the
day he dislocated the same shoulder, which required surgery and
kept him sidelined until July 23.

"It's not fun," Nevin said. "All these guys will be out
playing a game and I'll be in there."

Last spring's injury happened while Nevin was diving for a ball
in left field.

Nevin has already received calls from several friends, all with
the same message: Don't dive.

"I've always said, it'd be pretty tough to change the way you
play," Nevin said. "Those things are reaction. It took a while
for me last year to get comfortable going down to the ground to
slide. Obviously there's something wrong technique-wise. I see guys
dive every day and not get hurt. And it seems like every time I do,
I do get hurt.

"It's probably going to be in the back of my mind not to leave
my feet headfirst," he said. "Only time will tell with that. This
kind of scared me, because I thought it was fixed and everything
was fine."

Nevin said it was the sixth time since high school that he hurt
his shoulder.

"It can only happen so many times before somebody says you
can't play anymore," he said.

General manager Kevin Towers doesn't know how Nevin can change
his approach.

"When you're taught to be aggressive, you've got a game on the
line and a ball's a couple steps to your right, your instincts are
to leave your feet," Towers said.