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Hairston Jr.'s season ends with stress fracture

Hairston Jr.'s season ends with stress fracture

LOS ANGELES -- When Jerry Hairston Jr. first started to experience soreness in his right elbow last month, he could not wait to get a definitive answer as to what the problem was and how much time he would miss.

As for the searing pain in his lower right leg, something that had bothered Hairston since the end of July, he believes, he was not quite so anxious to get an authoritative diagnosis, instead choosing to believe he simply had shin splints.

Deep down, Hairston knew he didn't have shin splints.

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"Sometimes, you try to convince yourself ... and you lie to yourself," Hairston said.

On Monday, Hairston had an MRI on his lower right leg that disclosed that he indeed had something worse than shin splints. The MRI showed Hairston has a stress fracture of his tibia, meaning he'll miss the final 13 games of the regular season.

Hairston was to get a routine checkup on the strained elbow that caused him to miss 14 games in late August and early September. The team also wanted to finally give his right leg an MRI.

That's when Hairston phoned his brother and teammate, Scott Hairston.

"I wanted to believe it was shin splints," Hairston said. "I told Scott that I didn't want the X-rays ... that I think they will find something."

They did, and now Hairston, who might be the unsung hero of the team for the depth that he provided in the middle infield as for his bat that produced 50 RBIs, will miss these last 13 games and the playoffs if the Padres get that far.

Hairston, standing in front of his locker at Dodger Stadium, told reporters that he's been told this type of injury requires four to six weeks of recovery.

"If we're in the LCS or the World Series," Hairston said, smiling. " ... Then I'm playing."

Hairston was signed to play a variety of infield positions and even some outfield for the Padres. But when shortstop Everth Cabrera landed on the disabled list twice with injuries to his hamstring, Hairston filled in at shortstop.

Hairston also filled in at second base when David Eckstein was on the disabled list 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. "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."

That's the primary reason Hairston didn't want to pull himself out of the lineup. He was, at 34, having the time of his life -- and experience with the Padres that he likened to his time with the Yankees this season, a stint that ended with him getting the first World Series ring of his career.

"I want to be in this pennant race," Hairston said. "I got a taste of it last year. And it's an unbelievable feeling. I wanted to do it again. Sometimes, you try to convince yourself ... and lie to yourself."

Hairston said was unsure when he the injury occurred, but said he rolled his ankle on the second-base bag. The injury likely occurred the last week of July, when he was playing second base while Eckstein was on the DL.

"Jerry was sore, but like a lot of guys, he kept playing through some pain to the point where he needed to find out what was causing the discomfort," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Mentally and physically, he was fighting an uphill battle."

At least now, Hairston has an answer to what has troubled him. Even if he never really wanted that answer in the first place.

"The last two months or so ... it's been tough," Hairston said. "But the pain of playing is nothing compared to the pain of not playing."

Corey Brock 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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