© 2010 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

11/10/10 10:12 AM EST

Adrian's rehab may last until Spring Training

Slugger may not be able to swing bat for 'four or five months'

SAN DIEGO -- Starting Wednesday, Padres All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez will begin the rehabilitation process on the right shoulder he had surgery on three weeks ago.

Gonzalez, who has been wearing a sling since having surgery to repair his right labrum, is expected to be ready for Spring Training in February, though there's no telling when he'll be able to start swinging a bat.

Gonzalez told the Padres' flagship station, XX 1090 AM, this week that he might not be able to swing a bat for "four or five months." The four-month milestone would occur a week into the start of Spring Training.

However, the five-month mark would come 11 days before Opening Day.

"I think what Adrian is saying it that he's going to be very cautious and take it a step at a time," said agent John Boggs. "He's the type of player who can pick up a bat and be ready in a week.

"But what he's saying is he's going to take his time and make sure [his shoulder is] ready. The timeline has always been four months. He'll be ready ... but he's not going to burst out of the gates if he's not."

On Nov. 2, the Padres exercised their club option for $6.2 million on Gonzalez for the upcoming season, which will most likely be his final season with the team.

Last week, general manager Jed Hoyer, after a meeting with Boggs, said it was a near certainty that the three-time All-Star wants to explore free agency after his contract ends.

"With a year away from free agency, Adrian's desire is to go out and go after a franchise-player contract," Hoyer said. "At this point, I think it's a near certainty that he at least explores free agency."

Gonzalez, a San Diego native, told XX 1090 AM that he won't take a discounted deal to remain with the Padres because it would have a negative effect on his peers, future free agents.

"In essence, if I take what you call a 'San Diego discount,' then I'm affecting their market. I'm affecting what they are going to make. It's a lot like real estate," Gonzalez said.

"That's the reason why. The way the game of baseball is set up, we have to protect each other. We have to do what's best for each other."

As for his shoulder, Gonzalez resorted to surgery to "clean up" his labrum, as Hoyer said last month. The surgery, which took place in New York, occurred after Gonzalez had two MRIs on the shoulder and consulted three different specialists.

"There's a sense of relief for him to get it done," Hoyer said at the time.

Gonzalez first injured the shoulder diving for a foul ball in Houston in May. He guarded the shoulder to some extent the remainder of the season, not diving for as many balls as he might have otherwise.

Offensively, the shoulder changed the way Gonzalez hit. Instead of trying to pull the ball, he concentrated on hitting more line drives up the middle and to left field. Gonzalez also switched to a lighter bat to alleviate the strain on his shoulder.

Consequently, Gonzalez had his best success against left-handed pitchers (.337 batting average and .424 on-base percentage) of his career.

Gonzalez, who recently completed his fifth season in San Diego, hit .298 with 31 home runs and 101 RBIs in 160 games. This marked the fourth consecutive season that he hit 30 or more home runs.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.