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Hairston hitting stride in everyday role

Hairston hitting stride in everyday role

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SAN DIEGO -- Has Padres outfielder Scott Hairston finally ditched the platoon tag and become an everyday player?

Only time will tell, but Hairston has essentially become a fixture in the lineup because of the way he's been swinging the bat, especially against right-handed pitchers.

Hairston, who was in the lineup in left field for Monday's game against the Phillies, is hitting a team-best .326 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs, with two of those home runs coming in the last two games in Colorado.

Hairston started the season in a center-field platoon with Jody Gerut, who has since been traded to Milwaukee. Hairston is hitting .393 against lefties, but he has impressed with his ability to hit righties.

Hairston, a right-handed hitter, hit .224 last season against right-handers. But this season, Hairston is. 282 this season with three home runs against righties.

So what's changed?

"I think the biggest thing is getting a chance to play every day," Hairston said. "In the past, my role was specifically against left-handed pitching, and then I would get some at-bats against right-handed pitching, but it would be pinch-hits, double-switches when I wasn't really fresh."

"I've always believed I could hit right-handers. I think the regularity of me being in the lineup has been the biggest difference."

Hairston has made 24 starts in center field this season, and Monday's start in left field was hit 10th there.

"He's seeing the ball well, having good at-bats," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's laying off balls down and in the strike zone and doing a good job of staying in the zone. The big thing for me has been pitching selection."

The big thing for Hairston is getting a chance to essentially play every day. He had 339 at-bats with Arizona as a rookie in 2004, but shuttled between Triple-A and the Major Leagues until 07, when he was traded to San Diego.

The 326 at-bats Hairston had a year ago when he hit .248 with 17 home runs and 48 RBIs marked the second-most at-bats in his career. At his current rate, surpassing the 339 at-bats of '04 should easily occur.

"Looking back at my career ... this is probably the only time when I have come to the ballpark knowing that I had a really good chance to be in the starting lineup," Hairston said. "Ever since my rookie year in 2004, I've been that platoon guy, play two or three times a week, never have a chance to get on a hot streak."

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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