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Notes: Eaton inches closer to return

Notes: Eaton inches closer to return

SAN DIEGO -- Adam Eaton was back in his familiar spot in the Padres' clubhouse on Thursday morning, shooting the breeze with teammates and feeling better about life than he has in quite some time.

Under challenging mound and playing conditions at Lancaster, Calif., pitching for Class A Lake Elsinore, Eaton threw three scoreless innings on Wednesday night in a starting role. If he continues to make progress, he figures he'll be ready to rejoin Jake Peavy and the rest of the troupe after two more rehab assignments for Triple-A Portland.

"We gotta have him back," Peavy, the No. 1 starter, said, delighted to hear that No. 1a Eaton was pleased with his stuff and command at Lancaster.

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"I pitched well, kept the ball down," Eaton said. "I threw the slider like I normally would, and I liked what it did. I got a couple of strikeouts with it, although I did hang one to one guy."

Eaton gave up a single and two walks, striking out two, throwing 43 pitches.

"I was a little rusty," he said, "but I kept it down and needed only 20-some pitches to get through the first two [innings]. I asked them if I could go four if I had another quick inning in the third, but I ended up giving up a hit and walking a guy."

Reliever Rudy Seanez, in his return to active duty after a bout with a strained right shoulder, wasn't as fortunate as Eaton on Wednesday night. The veteran reliever gave up two homers and four runs in his one inning of work, walking one.

Commiserating with Seanez, Eaton alluded to hazardous pitching conditions created by the configuration of the stadium and a wind that lifted harmless fly balls and carried them to the walls.

"I threw one changeup, and the guy hit what I thought was a little fly ball -- and I watched the right fielder drift all the way back against the wall," Eaton said.

"All in all, I'm pleased. I think I'll be good to go with two more [starts]."

Eaton will pitch on Monday in Portland and on Saturday, Aug. 20, at Las Vegas. If all goes well, he hopes to be back in the rotation when the Padres kick off a nine-game homestand against the Astros on Aug. 22.

Eaton was 9-2 with a 3.45 ERA, seemingly destined for the All-Star Game, when he strained the tendon in the right middle finger on June 15 in Detroit pitching against the Tigers.

Eaton came off the disabled list on Aug. 2 and made two relief appearances in Pittsburgh, one inning on each occasion, before it was determined that he'd be better served strengthening his arm starting at the Minor League level.

Peavy revved for Phils: Peavy, coming off a dominant performance in Washington, D.C., opens a three-game series against the Phillies on Friday night at PETCO Park.

The ace could have requested an extra day of recovery time for his right middle finger -- injured in a freak batting practice incident at RFK Stadium when a ball struck the tip of the finger -- but that wouldn't be Jake.

"He's one competitive guy," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Jake always wants to be out there."

Bochy was relieved to hear that Peavy's finger has responded well in the aftermath of his complete-game, five-hit, 10-strikeout shutout on Sunday. Peavy was stretched out to 119 pitches, a number he has exceeded only once this season. He needed 124 pitches against the Dodgers on June 20 at Dodger Stadium.

"I want to be out there for the boys," Peavy said. "We've got it back going. I like being out there as much as possible."

If he stays on his fifth day, he'll pitch in Florida against the Marlins next Wednesday. Dontrelle Willis also would be on his fifth day, which would make for a potentially memorable showdown of great young arms.

"The finger's almost completely healed," Peavy said. "It's still a little sore in the tip of the finger, but it looks like I'm going to keep the nail."

After a fly ball caromed off the RFK Stadium wall and struck Peavy on the hand, the finger was swollen and the nail was discolored. But the nail, like the man it belongs to, apparently is as tough as nails.

Hernandez making progress: Ramon Hernandez, on the disabled list since July 29 with a sprained right wrist that needed surgery, reported that he's "doing better than the [medical] people thought I'd be doing only 10 days after surgery."

Hernandez, arguably the team's most valuable performer through the first three months of the season, said he'll start playing catch next week and hopes to begin swinging a bat in two weeks.

The catcher said he'd like to be activated around the second week of September and contribute to the Padres' stretch run any way he can. He said he's been impressed with the play of newly acquired Miguel Olivo behind the plate.

On deck: Peavy (10-4, 3.11 ERA) will oppose Phillies right-hander Jon Lieber (10-10, 5.00 ERA) on Friday night in the first of three weekend games at PETCO Park.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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