Spark plug Solarte impacting Padres' lineup

Spark plug Solarte impacting Padres' lineup

SAN DIEGO -- Two things are evident every time Yangervis Solarte steps on a ballfield: He loves playing baseball. And his teammates love playing baseball alongside him.

Arguably the Padres most demonstrative player, Solarte made his presence felt again Monday night, launching a three-run third-inning homer into the right-field seats. It was the critical blow in a 7-2 victory over the Braves -- the Padres' 11th straight win over Atlanta, the most against any single opponent at Petco Park.

In classic Solarte fashion, once the ball left his bat -- and it was a no-doubter -- he scooted right around the bases, before skipping and clapping his hands as he stepped on home plate. Wil Myers and Matt Kemp, who were on base at the time, greeted him at the plate, wide-eyed and laughing.

"That's me," Solarte said after his 2-for-4 night brought his average to .329 on the season. "I don't want to come here, stay here, be quiet. I don't like that. I want to talk to everybody, bring everybody together. That's the most important thing for me. If you play happy, everything is happy."

With a pair of hits Monday, Solarte has now recorded multi-hit games in six of his last 11 contests. He struggled a bit after immediately returning from the disabled list with a hamstring strain. But in those last 11 games, he's hitting .333 (14-for-52) with four home runs.

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"He's a sparkplug in the lineup," said Myers. "He's obviously a great hitter, he's great on defense. He's just a guy that brings a lot of energy to the lineup, and we missed him while he was gone. You can see the difference in the lineup with him here."

Of course, Solarte brings more to the Padres than just an infectiously positive attitude. Manager Andy Green inserted him into the cleanup spot upon his return, and Solarte has thrived.

He's also a switch-hitter, which might not seem like much of a big deal. But the Padres' lineup skews extremely right-handed and they struggled against righty pitching with Solarte on the disabled list.

"He's a left-handed bat in the middle of the order we really rely on," said Green. "He can switch-hit, too, but we need that left-handed aspect. It was a really tough loss for us to endure so early in the season. He was swinging the bat well beforehand, and he's swinging the bat well now."

Solarte's home run was a moonshot, leaving the bat with a 35-degree launch angle, the third-highest by a Padres hitter this season. He says it's the highest long ball he's ever hit, but thinks a similar homer he hit last month in Arizona may have come close.

On that one, too, he skipped into home plate -- and it seems there's a hop in Solarte's step no matter what he does.

On Monday afternoon, the Padres' barber was in the clubhouse, and Solarte throught it time for a haircut. Not one to ever bide his time patiently, Solarte skipped to his locker wearing his full barber's cape. A couple minutes later, when his turn in the chair came up, he skipped back.

"He's got life," Green said. "He's just got a lot of energy in the lineup. You see the passion out on the baseball field, he loves playing baseball. I think it's infectious in that way."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.