Bagwell tests shoulder in field

Bagwell tests shoulder in field

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Jeff Bagwell's participation in Saturday's game with the Phillies looked much like any other Spring Training game he's played in his decade and a half in baseball.

But this was a day different than any other Bagwell has had in 10 months, because when the Astros took the field for the first time, it was Bagwell who jogged to first base. It marked the first time since last May that he has played his position.

Prior to the first pitch, Bagwell, who played four innings, threw around to his infield teammates three times, a routine he has been practicing for more than a week in between at-bats behind the left-field wall. In many respects, defensively, he looked like the old Bagwell -- picking throws out of the dirt, stretching to grab wide throws and generally handling the ball in the same manner he has for most of his career.

"He's still as good as ever," manager Phil Garner said.

That part of the defensive side of his game, of course, is not the issue.

"I don't feel bad in that sense," Bagwell said. "I didn't feel any different being out there, even though it's been a long time. The only thing is just the throwing. Can I get through not only the game, but can I get through a season? We'll have to see on that."

The true test will be how he feels on Sunday. He'll have two games off, while the team travels to Vero Beach on Sunday and Dunedin on Monday. Even a fully healthy Bagwell probably wouldn't have played in those games anyway, considering Garner will give a handful of veterans -- Bagwell, Lance Berkamn, Craig Biggio, Orlando Palmeiro -- a break from the upcoming road trips.

If Bagwell feels good on Tuesday, he'll play the night game against the Braves, at Disney.

Earlier in the week, Garner and Bagwell tentatively targeted Saturday as the day the first baseman would play the field for the first time this spring. The final decision, however, went down to the last two hours before game time. Bagwell, confident he could play, didn't want to make any definitive commitments until he knew for sure he was ready to do this.

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"I wanted to see how I felt," he said. "I didn't want to sit there and say I was going to play and then all of a sudden I couldn't play and then everybody would say, 'Oh God, he had a setback.' We were just cautious to see how I did this week. Phil and I talked, he asked after [batting practice] how I felt and I said, 'Let's try it.'"

Even though the motion of throwing could eventually take its toll on his hitting, Bagwell is putting in a full effort during his at-bats. His swings on Saturday looked violent as usual, and although he was 0-for-3, he was pleased with the at-bats from the mechanics perspective.

"I've had some bad at-bats, but I've had some good at-bats," he said. "I might not have anything to show for them, but I think my swings are there. I'm holding on with two hands, I'm not having to let go because I'm restricted from getting out there. My hitting will come.

"The major focus and the black cloud that's sitting over this locker is that throwing arm. That's what we're going to have to go with. If it starts hurting bad enough where it's affecting my swing, then we're going to have another talk."

In that respect, the only thing Bagwell can do is wait. And play. He'll have every opportunity to do so in the coming weeks.

"He deserves that," Garner said. "Not only does he deserve it, that's the right thing for us to do in that situation. And that's what we've done."

Bagwell and Garner, as well as team medical director David Lintner and head athletic trainer Dave Labossiere, are in constant communication and by all accounts, Bagwell is being very honest about his physical state.

"The problem is there is no guarantee," Bagwell said. "I'm not sitting here saying, 'Yeah, I'm playing.' I don't know yet. I don't know how this thing is going to be in a week.

"This is a new spot for me right now. I've got to make a decision on my future and also with the feelings of what goes on with the Astros. This is a different thing for me. As I've said before, hopefully when this whole thing comes to a head and we decide which way we're going to go, and everybody will be happy with the decision."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.