J. Hairston open to return to Padres
Free agent has fractured leg examined by club physician
SAN DIEGO -- Free-agent infielder Jerry Hairston Jr., who filled a valuable role as an utility man for the Padres this past season, will meet with team physician Heinz Hoenecke in San Diego on Friday to get his fractured right tibia examined."Hopefully I can start running again," Hairston said on Thursday. He wouldn't mind running into a contract to return to San Diego. The feeling is certainly mutual, as Padres general manager Jed Hoyer indicated that he has spoken with Hairston's agent about having the 34-year-old return next season. "We have needs at shortstop, second base and utility," Hoyer said. "He could fill any one of the three. We would like to have him back in the role we had him in last year." Hairston, who in January signed a one-year deal worth $2.125 million, hit .244 over 119 games with 10 home runs and 50 RBIs. Hairston missed the final 15 games of the season after it was discovered in September that he had been playing on a fractured right tibia. Hairston had trouble with his right leg in the second half of the season but thought he simply had shin splints. "I had a great time in San Diego, loved the guys and just really enjoyed my time there. We were just so close [to making the playoffs]," Hairston said. "But I would definitely consider coming back." Hairston was signed to play a variety of infield positions and even some outfield for the Padres. But when shortstop Everth Cabrera went on the disabled list twice with hamstring injuries, Hairston filled in at shortstop. He also filled in at second base when David Eckstein was on the DL in July with an injury to his right calf. All told, Hairston played 47 games at second base, three games at third base, 62 games at shortstop and 12 games in the outfield. "Jerry has been such a great value to this club," Eckstein said in September. "He's a guy who can and did play everywhere and brought a great energy to the club. He's one of the big reasons we're in the position that we're in today." As for the current state of his right leg, Hairston said on Thursday, "My leg feels great. My healthy isn't really an issue. It's not like I have something serious. With my injury, I was just required to stay off it."