Hairston Jr. gets back to true utility role

Hairston Jr. gets back to true utility role

SAN DIEGO -- Jerry Hairston Jr. made his second start of the season in left field on Wednesday against the D-backs, a sign that the versatile veteran now will likely transition to the utility role that the Padres envisioned for him when he was signed in the offseason.

"He has the capability to go all over, which is a great advantage for us," Padres manager Bud Black said.

Hairston's nod in left allowed Will Venable to take a day off against a left-handed starting pitcher in Joe Saunders.

Hairston's other start in left this season came on May 21 at Seattle, and his previous start at any outfield position came on June 29 against Colorado. He has been primarily used as a middle infielder because of injuries to Everth Cabrera and David Eckstein that required lengthy stints on the 15-day disabled list.

So how did Hairston feel about whipping out the outfielder's glove for the first time in almost two months?

"I'm scared to death," Hairston said. "I hope no fly balls are hit my way."

Hairston was joking, of course. Instead, he said he will rely on muscle memory, preparation and experience playing the outfield throughout his career.

"I'm a guy that will do a lot of things in Spring Training, just in case," Hairston said. "I'll obviously play just about anywhere. As long as it's not pitching, I'm fine."

Overall this season, Hairston has started at least one game at second base, shortstop, third base, left field and right field, and he said his ability to switch seamlessly between positions is something he takes great pride in.

"Few guys do it, so I'm very proud of that," Hairston said. "Obviously, it's a need. There's value in [playing multiple positions]. It really is priceless. The game, especially the last couple years, is really geared towards that, and I like to think I'm pretty good at it."

Hairston also slid down in the batting order from first to sixth on Wednesday, with Eckstein batting leadoff.