Spangenberg close to returning

But where will he play?

Spangenberg close to returning

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Infielder Cory Spangenberg says he is ready to rejoin the Padres.

"He says he feels fine," Padres interim manager Pat Murphy said Wednesday. "He says the knee is ready. He stole a base. He's running."

Spangenberg has been on the Padres' disabled list since June 28, the day after he bruised a bone in his left knee during a collision at second while turning a double play.

Spangenberg gets shaken up

At the time of his injury, the 24-year-old left-handed hitter was coming into his own. He was hitting .254 with eight doubles, two triples and two homers with 11 RBIs in 177 at-bats. He had seven steals and a .304 on-base percentage.

He was also seeing some time at the top of the Padres' order as the leadoff hitter, and there were plans to use Spangenberg more in that role. Spangenberg has spent eight games on his rehab assignment thus far -- six at Double-A San Antonio and two with Triple-A El Paso. Overall, he is 7-for-35 on his rehab with a triple, two steals, two RBIs and two runs scored.

While at San Antonio, Spangenberg hit in the leadoff spot. But at El Paso, he has hit second in the order behind center fielder Travis Jankowski, who is being groomed as the potential leadoff hitter of the Padres' future.

In the field, Spangenberg has played second and third, with one start at shortstop at San Antonio as a way of giving Benji Gonzalez, the Missions' only shortstop, a day off.

"He told me his swing is close," Murphy said of a conversation he had with Spangenberg several days ago.

The question now is where does Spangenberg play when the Padres activate him? Two of their hottest hitters recently are third baseman Yangervis Solarte and second baseman Jedd Gyorko.

Since the day Spangenberg was injured, Solarte has hit .308 (44-for-143) with 10 doubles, three triples and five homers for 14 RBIs and 23 runs scored. He has a .361 on-base percentage during Spangenberg's absence, with a .524 slugging percentage for a .885 OPS. He has started 35 of the past 38 games at third base.

Gyorko returned to the Major Leagues from El Paso on the same day Spangenberg was placed on the DL. He has hit .254 in Spangenberg's absence, with three doubles, five home runs, 17 RBIs and seven runs scored. And Gyorko has been hotter recently, going 18-for-57 (.316) over his last 14 games with two home runs and 10 RBIs.

From the scorecard

• Catcher Derek Norris doubled in the first inning Wednesday afternoon. It was his 22nd double as a catcher this season, the most by a catcher in the Major Leagues in 2015. He has a total of 24 doubles on the season, but only four since June 26. He is hitting .349 (15-for-43) with three doubles, a home run and seven RBIs over his last 12 games.

• Right fielder Matt Kemp's three-run homer Wednesday gave him 12 homers and 63 RBIs on the season. That puts him on a pace for 17 homers and 89 RBIs. Since June 25, Kemp has hit .287 (43-for-150) with eight doubles, eight homers and 27 RBIs. Kemp is hitting .328 (21-for-64) with runners in scoring position since May 24.

• Right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley has allowed one run on nine hits and two walks with 21 strikeouts over 16 2/3 innings (0.54 ERA) over his last 15 appearances since June 30.

• Right-handed starter James Shields is 1-5 since starting the season 7-0, and the Padres are 2-10 in the last 12 games started by Shields. The righty has a 4.20 ERA over those 12 starts.