Inbox: What does Hairston bring to table?

Inbox: What does Hairston bring to table?

Why does Jerry Hairston Jr. keep getting starts? It seems like manager Bud Black wants him in the lineup every single day. Is there a reason?
-- Chris F., San Diego

Why does Hairston keep starting? Because he offers the team versatility, something Black hasn't really had since taking over as manager in 2007. Hairston has already started games at second base, shortstop and right field. He will see time at some point at third base and will probably bounce around the outfield. He's already made a handful of nice plays at second base and shortstop. His strong throw from right field on Tuesday against the Giants kept the potential tying run at third base in a game the Padres won, 1-0. He hasn't hit much, but there's no reason to think he won't moving forward. I think you will see Hairston in the lineup -- playing somewhere -- more than you won't see him.

I have been following the Padres since 2005, and one thing they've never had is a consistent lineup. Why can't (or won't) they settle on a solid core? I look at successful teams doing this, and it makes me shake my head. -- Kyra P., Fallbrook, Calif.

Kyra, I'm guessing you're asking about the daily batting order and why it changes so often. It's pretty simple. Black has a roster that allows him to mix and match depending on the situation, like what player might hit an opposing pitcher better, or he'll have a different lineup for when the team faces a right-handed pitcher left-handed pitcher.

Also, there are players who are in platoon situations. Tony Gwynn will generally start in center field against right-handed pitchers, while Scott Hairston will start on days when the Padres face left-handers. And remember, it's a long season. It's unreasonable to expect a team to go through the season with the same lineup. As Black likes to say, you have to use your entire roster.

Outfielder Chad Huffman was a fan-favorite while with the Double-A San Antonio Missions. What happened?
-- Robert G., San Antonio

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The Padres needed to make a move that allowed them to add Matt Stairs to the 40-man roster. In short, Huffman was the player the organization felt it could part with because of a glut of outfielders in San Diego and, generally, at the upper levels of the Minor League system, like Luis Durango and Aaron Cunningham, who are playing with Triple-A Portland. Someone had to go, and remember, this isn't a case of Huffman vs. Stairs. That's not it at all. As an organization, you want to have difficult decisions when it comes to who the keep on the 40-man roster. That means you have done a nice job of building quality depth. Huffman, who was claimed by the Yankees, was hitting .261 with one home run in his first six games at Triple-A.

Since Trevor Hoffman is gone, how long will it take to groom a quality closer?
-- Chuck K, Oceanside, Calif.

In my estimation, Chuck, it's already happened. I think Heath Bell established himself as a quality closer last season, that is, if you consider an All-Star nod and a league-leading 42 saves as quality. Bell was a Minor League closer while with the Mets, and it showed. He handled the move from eighth-inning specialist to closer pretty well. That said, Bell, like other closers, will have a clunker from time to time. But the organization has confidence in him closing games and feels he is the best suited on the staff -- all apologies to Mike Adams -- to close games.

It's no surprise if the Padres fall deep into last place by the Trade Deadline they'll probably deal away some of their players. Who do you think had the highest chance of getting traded, Jon Garland or Chris Young?
-- Sean C., El Cajon, Calif.

It's hard to speculate how this will all shake out, Sean. I'll play along for the sake of your question. Let's say the Padres are well out of the National League West race by the time the July 31 Trade Deadline rolls around. I think the player the Padres will get the most hits on would be Bell. Contending teams are generally looking to shore up their bullpens for the stretch run. The Trade Deadline is time in which a team can get the most in return for moving a commodity, like Bell. There's a chance the Padres could always deal Garland and Young (if healthy), especially since other teams are always looking for arms.

I was surprised that Garland was the Opening Day starting pitcher. During Spring Training, he was struggling. If Garland continues to struggle, will he be sent to Triple-A Portland, traded or released?
-- Erik B., San Diego

Erik, first, a quick word about Spring Training statistics: They don't count and they don't mean anything. Spring Training for pitchers is a time to build their endurance, gradually incorporate all of their pitches as camp wears on and as Opening Day approaches. Don't get caught up in those statistics. As for Garland, he's likely here for the long haul (well, the entire season unless they decided to deal him). The Padres signed Garland because of his durability and track record for eating up a lot of innings. He's a guy who has typically struggled in April (5.07 ERA) but pitched better as the season goes on. He's going to be fine. If he heads to Portland at all, I'm assuming it would only be for vacation.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.