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Headley beginning to show encouraging signs

Headley beginning to show encouraging signs

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Headley beginning to show encouraging signs

WASHINGTON -- Friday was a good day for Padres third baseman Chase Headley, who hasn't experienced many of those this season.

Headley clubbed a home run and a long double against Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, producing his second game with multiple extra-base hits this year, and his first since April 28.

"Hopefully it's about to break," Headley said.

But as Headley acknowledged, working out a long slump is an especially difficult challenge for a switch-hitter. After dealing with a lefty on Friday, he faced matchups against two tough righties -- Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg -- to close out the series.

"That's the tricky part about being a switch-hitter is you have two completely different swings," said Headley, who went 1-for-4 on Saturday. "So you try to keep the momentum going from both sides, but sometimes one side feels great, the other side doesn't feel as good. So you're always constantly battling with trying to get both sides right."

Headley has hit better from the left side over his career, including his All-Star 2012 season, but he has been feeling more comfortable from the right side of late.

"In a perfect world, the side you're going well from, obviously you want as many at-bats as you can," Headley said. "But that's just the life of a switch-hitter. It's great when both sides are going, but it always seems like you're always a little bit stronger from one side or the other."

Headley set career highs last season with a .875 OPS, 31 home runs and 115 RBIs. This year, he was hitting .222 with a .669 OPS, seven home runs and 28 RBIs through Saturday. In his prior 45 games, he hit .183.

Manager Bud Black pointed to Headley's pitch selection as one reason for that difference. Headley normally excels in that area, Black said, but has expanded his strike zone more this year. Friday's performance was an encouraging sign.

"He's at his best when he's swinging at strikes, taking balls, laying off borderline pitches, having a good feel for the strike zone and controlling the strike zone," Black said. "That's when he's at his best, and that's what I saw [Friday] night. There's been more often than not, over the last week or so, better at-bats in that regard."

Clearly, Friday's game wasn't an instant season-changer for Headley. Things are rarely so simple. But he believes his disappointing 2013 will improve, that a few more balls will start falling in and that better at-bats soon will give way to better results.

"I've done this long enough to know I can hit Major League pitching. I've built a track record," Headley said. "As tough as it is when you're going through it, you just have to know that eventually it's going to turn for you and things are going to start going better."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. Andrew Simon 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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