And then the phone rang.
"There's no need for you to come," the Padres told Gonzalez and his agents. San Diego had signed Cliff Floyd.
Gonzalez is still waiting for the next call.
Like Pedro Martinez, Frank Thomas and others, Gonzalez is a veteran who wants to play yet can't find a job.
"I don't know if it's the economy," Gonzalez told FanHouse. "I wasn't out there trying to get a $4 million contract. I just love to play. I want to play."
So he has continued to work out, taking batting practice (although not as often as he did while spring training was going on) and hoping someone has a need.
"I just have to see live pitching," he said.
Gonzalez, 41, last year hit .261 in 337 at-bats for the Florida Marlins, with 26 doubles, eight homers and 47 RBI – similar production to Colorado's Todd Helton (.264, 16 doubles, seven homers, 29 RBI in 361 at-bats).
But Gonzalez sells himself as someone with something to give in the clubhouse as well as on the field.
"This isn't the '80s or the early '90s any more," he said, "when a lot of GMs would like to go for guys like myself.
"GMs used to want to have those veteran guys around."
Gonzalez said he enjoyed taking on the role of mentor in Florida, not that all his old-school habits caught on. Marlins teammates would make fun of him for giving a simple handshake when congratulating someone.
"Those guys would have 58 different handshakes," he said.
"I'm kind of a special case because I'm a ballpark rat. I go early and stay late. The last couple of teams I played on, guys would leave right after the game and I'd be with the clubhouse guys as they were doing laundry."
There was some interest from Atlanta and Pitttsburgh over the winter as well, but when agent Gregg Clifton would ask about Gonzalez, Clifton said, "the general response was, 'We like the name, but not yet.' "
So now Gonzalez hangs out with his 10-year-old triplets, going to their baseball and softball games. He is close to some milestones, with 596 career doubles (more than any active player), 354 homers and 2,591 hits, but someone has to give him a chance.
"I don't have any sour grapes," he said.
"I'm not in the situation where I'm going to beg for a job. I just still feel like I can help a team."
Overheard and Understood
• Ken Griffey Jr.'s homer on Opening Day was his 399th with the Mariners; he needs one more to become the first player ever to hit 400 home runs for one team and 200 for another (the Reds).
• Speaking of Griffey: he, Randy Johnson and Omar Vizquel were rookies together on the 1989 Mariners -- so this is the first time three rookie teammates were still active 20 years later.
• One NL scout expects a big bounceback year from Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez, based on his spring. A standout in the playoffs in 2007, Jimenez last year was 12-12 with 108 walks, second most in the league. Jimenez, who pitched seven scoreless innings last Tuesday at Arizona, is scheduled for his second start Monday at the Cubs.
• The Red Sox's season opener on Tuesday drew a 17.9 rating on Boston TV -- making it the top show in the market that night, even ahead of American Idol.
• According to Major League Baseball, Houston had the oldest Opening Day roster, with an average age of 32.88. Florida was youngest, for the second straight year, at 27.21 years on average.
|Chart of the Week|
|The Florida Marlins started the season 4-0 for the first time in franchise history. But winning the first four games is no guarantee of year-long success. Teams that started 4-0 since 2003:|
|2007 Mets||2nd in NL East|
|2006 Brewers||4th in NL Central|
|2006 Tigers||AL champion|
|2004 Tigers||4th in AL Central|
|2003 Giants||Won NL West|
|2003 Pirates||4th in NL Central|
|2003 Royals||3rd in AL Central|
|2003 Yankees||AL champion|
• Russ Ortiz earned the final spot in the Astros rotation after four injury-plagued seasons. An executive from another team was impressed, saying Ortiz was throwing 90-91 mph in spring training. "He looks like the old Russ Ortiz, but keeping the ball down."
• The Padres are so bereft of pitching that six of the 13 pitchers on the current roster -- including five of the eight relievers -- were not in the organization when spring training began: No. 5 starter Shawn Hill (released by Washington), Eulogio De La Cruz (trade from Marlins), Luke Gregorson (trade from Cardinals), Edward Mujica (trade from Indians), Luis Perdomo (waiver claim from Giants) and Duaner Sanchez (released by Mets). Five members of the staff had never pitched in the majors before this year.
• An executive who saw the White Sox this spring questioned the depth of their bullpen, saying Scott Linebrink was "showing a little bit of age," Mike MacDougal "cannot throw strikes" and lefty Clayton Richard seems ill-suited to long relief.
• As the Yankees wait to officially debut their new stadium, they started the season with a nine-game road trip for the first time. And they are the first team since 2002 to be part of four home openers (Baltimore, Kansas City, Tampa Bay and their own).
• Philadelphia's Ryan Howard on Wednesday reached 500 career RBI in his 575th game, making him the fastest to reach the milestone since Ted Williams in 1942 (569th game).
• The next time Mariano Rivera saves a win for Andy Pettitte, the duo will tie Dennis Eckersley and Bob Welch for most career win/save combinations at 57.