TUCSON - Trot Nixon touches the outside of his left foot and rubs the spot where he still has very occasional numbness, the residual effect of his back operation 15 months ago.
Nixon learned a lot, certainly more than he wanted, about nerve regeneration following his diskectomy, the same procedure Randy Johnson has undergone three times.
“I didn’t have any feeling down the back side of my leg,” in the immediate aftermath of the procedure, he said.
“When I tried to run, I couldn’t run. The nerve had to reboot, and it took a long time.”
But that was then, when Nixon ended his 10-year run with Boston and played with Cleveland in 2007.
This is now — Nixon can plant and drive off his back leg, his left leg, while hitting — regaining the power base that had eluded him until late August or September of last season.
It is not that Nixon feels like a new man this spring so much as he feels like himself again.
“He looks real good. He’s hitting the ball the other way well, turning on the ball,” D-Backs hitting coach Rick Schu said.
“He’s just a professional hitter. He’s a fierce competitor. You see him come in the dugout after he made an out, and he’s mad that he didn’t have the success he wanted to have. He’s a grinder.”
Nixon hit .251 in 99 games with Cleveland last season, and his three home runs were a career low since he began playing regularly with the Red Sox in 1999.
“I didn’t have pain or anything” as the season began, he said, so no compensation was required.
“But as far as being able to really put it all together and push off and feel good mentally about it, it wasn’t (until) toward the end of the year,” he said.
“At times, part of my foot would be numb. And it still is. Rarely. That may never change.”
He gives a lot of credit to the medical and training staffs in Cleveland for helping his rehabilitation.
A right fielder virtually his entire 11-year major league career, Nixon played left field Tuesday and is to play five innings at first base in a minor league game today.
He also has been a designated hitter and been used as a pinch-hitter, a role he could occupy if Chad Tracy is unable to open the regular season.
A career .275 hitter with 136 home runs, Nixon will do whatever it takes.
He said he wants to play until “the game doesn’t want me to play any more.
“As you keep playing, you have a better understanding of that. I think when you are younger, you may have goals of playing 10 years or 12 years, and that’s it,” he said.
“The older you get, the more you realize that if you have a chance to keep playing, you do. It’s the camaraderie — being in the clubhouse, being with the guys.”
The pinnacle of that loving feeling came in 2004, when the Red Sox made major league history by overcoming a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the ALCS before sweeping St. Louis in the World Series.
The Red Sox beat the Yankees after finely parsing the final four games.
“You compact it down. You are not worried about the game,” Nixon said.
“You worry about every single pitch on offense, every single play on defense. You try to win every inning. Then you win a few games and your confidence is back to where you want it to be. Then the series is tied up.”
Then Boston won it, Nixon scoring the final run in a 10-3 Game 7 victory.
“We felt like we won two World Series,” Nixon said.