Jay Payton is hoping his strong finish to the 2004 season will earn him a second chance in center field for the Padres in 2005.
Payton was a disappointment at the plate until his recent 12-game hitting streak. He is signed for the 2005 season although rumors persist that the Padres will try to trade his $4 million contract and seek another center fielder.
"As long as I am the guy they want in center, I want to be here," said Payton. "But I consider myself an everyday player. I don't consider myself a fourth outfielder."
Payton said his recent success at the plate is a result of opening his stance and "seeing the ball better." "I also had a lot of things going on off the field --more personal stuff going on than ever before -- and my mind wasn't where it needed to be. I'm trying to finish strong and prove to myself and everyone else that I can hit."
Payton was hitting .308 on June 5. But over the next three months, he hit only .185 (41-for-222) as the Padres, after failing to acquire Steve Finley, experimented with Freddy Guzman, Terrence Long and Xavier Nady in center.
"It would have been great if I had the same approach and clear mind three months ago as I have now," said Payton. "I used to be a guy who changed a lot of things over the course of a season, but this year it wasn't until the end of August that I got into a naturally comfortable position at the plate."
Terrence Long is hitting .356 (16-for-45) as a pinch-hitter this season with a homer and eight RBI and is 5-for-6 with a homer, sacrifice fly and three RBI in his last seven appearances.
"I'm ready to hit anytime I step in there," said Long. "I know I can have a good at-bat if I have one a game or four a game. You can't give away at-bats."
Despite his prowess as a pinch-hitter, Long said he isn't sure he wants to be known as a pinch-hitter ... although he has come to appreciate the position since coming over from the American League.
"In the American League, being a pinch-hitter is something of a joke with the DH ... you might see a pinch-hitter every other week," he said. "I didn't know how important it was until I got to the National League. The pinch-hitter plays a big part in games in this league."
Ramon Hernandez and Ramon Vazquez have been hitting back-to-back in the seventh and eighth positions in the Padres order -- the first time in major league history that two players named Ramon have hit back-to-back.
Mark Loretta is the first Padre to have a 200-hit (204 and counting), 100-run (107) and 75-RBI season. He had his league-leading 67th multi-hit game of the season Sunday (Sept. 26). His 204 hits on the year is the fifth-highest total in franchise history.
Saturday is "jersey day" for the Padres with players wearing replica jerseys to the ballpark. Jake Peavy showed up Saturday (Sept. 25) wearing a replica Lance Armstrong "yellow jersey" from the Tour de France complete with the riding shorts.