PEORIA, Ariz. -- San Diego manager Bud Black indicated Thursday that Eric Patterson, who has essentially locked up an Opening Day roster spot as a utility man, might well be headed for the disabled list with a sore left hamstring.
Patterson, who has missed the last five games, including Thursday against Texas, won't appear in a game until Monday at the earliest, though the team might opt to let him heal instead of pushing for a return.
The Padres will break camp Tuesday and fly to St. Louis for Opening Day on March 31.
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Patterson, who has played several outfield positions and second base this spring, has been one of the best hitters in camp. He is hitting .438 with nine extra-base hits, including one home run, one triple and seven doubles.
Black made it clear the Padres want to make sure Patterson's hamstring is totally healed before he returns -- even if that means having him start the season on the disabled list.
"This is an injury where we want to be sure when he comes back that his hamstring is in a condition where he can play his game," Black said. "Speed is a big part of his game."
Patterson said the injury wasn't incident specific, but more something that built up over time recently.
If the Padres opt to place Patterson on the disabled list, it would be retroactive to Tuesday, meaning the soonest he could play in the regular season would be April 5, when the Padres face the Giants in the home opener at PETCO Park.
The same applies to left-handed pitcher Joe Thatcher, who will begin the season on the disabled list because of a sore shoulder.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.