SAN DIEGO -- Adam Eaton is on his way back to the Minor Leagues for at least three starts -- and he's not complaining about it at all. Eaton, who was 9-2 on June 15 when he injured his right middle finger pitching against the Tigers in Detroit, was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, retroactive to Aug. 5. The move enabled the Padres to activate middle reliever Chris Hammond without optioning either of their rookies, Clay Hensley or Craig Breslow. Hammond, 39, has been on the disabled list since July 20 with a pinched nerve in his neck. He's 5-1 with a 2.96 ERA in 37 appearances this season and gives the club two lefty relievers, joining Breslow.
Eaton plans to throw three innings with about a 45-pitch limit on Wednesday night in Lancaster for Lake Elsinore of the Class A California League. Then, he'll pitch for Triple-A Portland on Monday and again on Saturday in Las Vegas. A fourth rehab start, he said, was a possibility, depending on how the first three go. After that, Eaton hopes to rejoin the Padres -- and the rotation. "It's the one way to get me some innings," said Eaton, who worked two games, an inning in each, on the club's 5-1 swing through Pittsburgh and Washington. "It's not the worst-case scenario, for sure. I'm going to get back to starting shortly. "The plan originally was to be in the bullpen and throw two or three innings at a time, but I pitched in two blowout games in Pittsburgh, an inning each game." The best news for Eaton on the trip was that he experienced no residual pain after his second appearance and finally was able to throw a curveball without pain in the finger for the first time in a bullpen session on Sunday in Washington. He now feels he can throw all of his pitches, and the rehab assignments will enable him to experiment with a new grip on his slider to alleviate friction on the finger. "I'd like to be here [with the Padres] now, but at the same time, I'm best served as a starter on this team. The way Clay and Craig have thrown, it's not right for me to stay in the bullpen." Coming into Tuesday night's game against the Mets, Hensley had a 2.45 ERA in seven appearances covering 14 2/3 innings, and Breslow's ERA was 1.35 in five games and 6 2/3 innings. Klesko back in left: After missing the last five games of the road trip with a back ailment, Ryan Klesko returned to left field on Tuesday night -- and quickly was reintroduced to the action when he raced into foul territory to make a tumbling catch of a ball hit by Mets leadoff man Jose Reyes. An MRI procedure on Monday showed no structural damage in Klesko's back. He took some swings and decided to play against Pedro Martinez, a pitcher he had much success against early in their careers when Klesko was in Atlanta and Martinez in Montreal. "He used to pound that fastball all night," said Klesko, a .345 career hitter with four homers against Martinez. "You knew he was going to challenge you. Now he mixes everything up, offspeed stuff, different locations. He's probably closer to 50 percent fastballs now, where it used to be 80 or 90." In his second at-bat against Martinez, after striking out on a deadly changeup in the first inning, Klesko laced a first-pitch double into the right-field corner to score Joe Randa, and Robert Fick's single plated Klesko to give the Padres a 4-0 lead. Klesko isn't sure what caused the back to act up, only that it happened as he was turning on the shower on Wednesday morning in Pittsburgh. He'd taken ground balls at first base for the first time all season and thinks he might have overdone it, but he has hurt the back in so many ways, he's given up trying to figure out how and why. "In my 20s, I had more problems with it than in my 30s," he said. "Pizza and beer -- that's how I worked my abs in my 20s." Klesko credits an extensive training regimen with keeping his back loose and reducing the flare-ups to a minimum. Park endorsement: Klesko had considerable experience batting against Chan Ho Park when the right-hander was a member of the Dodgers from 1997-2001, averaging 15 wins per season. "He threw anything, anytime," Klesko said. "He was electric. His fastball had some life to it and was 92-96 [mph]. When he was in LA, he was one of the top four or five guys in the league. "From what I see, his ball's got more movement now, but he doesn't throw quite as hard. He's a fly-ball guy. He can throw a 2-0 fastball away, and not many guys can take him out here." Stat of the day: 201-199. So stands the all-time series between the Padres and Mets, the Padres barely holding the upper hand. But the Mets swept the Friars in New York July 19-21. On deck: Brian Lawrence (6-11, 4.43 ERA) and Kris Benson (7-4, 3.42 ERA) will meet on Wednesday night at PETCO Park in a rematch of a July 19 duel in New York taken by the Mets, 3-1, in 11 innings after Lawrence and Benson had departed, each having given up one run.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.