Venable returns to Padres' lineup

Venable returns to Padres' lineup

SAN DIEGO -- Outfielder Will Venable was back in the lineup on Wednesday, batting leadoff and playing center field after missing the previous two games against the Cubs at PETCO Park with a stiff lower back.

He put his back to the test right away. In the second inning, he robbed Alfonso Soriano of an extra-base hit with a catch at the wall in deep center field.

He outdid himself one inning later, robbing Aramis Ramirez of a two-run homer by reaching over the fence in left-center after a long run.

Venable, who hurt his back on Monday during the cool-down period following batting practice, did some running and hitting before Wednesday's contest to prove the injury had healed enough to allow him to get back on the field.

The workout was watched by manager Bud Black, first-base coach Rick Renteria and trainer Todd Hutcheson.

"I came here telling them that I felt good, but I was given the opportunity today to go out and physically show them that I was OK," Venable said. "I did enough to make them think, and to make myself think, that I'm ready to go, which I am. It's all good."

Venable's bat could provide a boost to an anemic offense that has scored a total of two runs on eight hits in its past two games. Venable is riding a nine-game hitting streak and batting .462 over his last 16 games with an at-bat, and he's hitting .373 this month.

"I'm confident that what I'm going to do is going to be enough to put some good swings on the ball," he said. "It sucks that I had those two days where I wasn't able to do anything, but hopefully I pick up where I left off and can get on base a couple times."