The first-place Padres have met every challenge tossed their way this summer, and now another big one is in front of them: Jerry Hairston Jr. is expected to be out of the lineup for at least two weeks with a strained right elbow, and he said it might be three or four weeks until he's back to full strength.
Hairston underwent an MRI exam in San Diego on Friday. He is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list sometime before Saturday afternoon's game against Philadelphia and replaced on the roster by Everth Cabrera, the young infielder who was optioned out when the Padres acquired Miguel Tejada last month.
"I was worried," said Hairston Jr., hitting .249 with a .305 on-base percentage, 10 homers and 50 RBI this season. "It could have been a lot worse."
Hairston Jr. might have become the Padres' most indispensible man this side of Adrian Gonzalez during sparkplug David Eckstein's month-long stint on the disabled list. He plugged second base nicely while Eckstein was recovering, just the latest evidence of a job well done in 2010.
His 101 starts this season have been far-flung: He's started 53 games this season at shortstop, 41 at second base, four in right field, two in left field and one at third base. He's also batted leadoff a team-high 47 times.
Manager Bud Black said the Padres would be "monitoring" Hairston Jr. and called the injury a "cumulative" one. Meaning, Hairston Jr. wasn't injured on one play.
"The last six weeks it's really started bothering me," Hairston Jr. said. "And it just got worse."
It didn't help his peace of mind that he was en route to Friday's MRI exam when he heard the devastating news that similar tests showed a torn ligament in the elbow of Washington ace Stephen Strasburg. Hairston, though, eluded that sort of terrible news.
He will not throw for two weeks and then, he said, "we'll see where I'm at."
The Padres are contemplating whether to place him on the disabled list.
"I can still hit," he said.
Even at that, the Padres do not want to take any chances. As such, they had Cabrera on a plane Friday night. Cabrera, 23, is a solid fielder who was struggling offensively when they sent him to Triple-A Portland to make room for Tejada. In 63 games with the Padres this season, Cabrera was hitting .205 with one homer, 22 RBI and eight steals.
Hairston Jr. would be eligible to return from the disabled list on Sept. 11, the third day of a four-game series against NL West rival San Francisco.