Chase Headley: Will His Return Save the Padres' Season?

Gary Ousdahl@@GaryOusdahlCorrespondent IIApril 11, 2013

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 24:  Chase Headley #7 of the San Diego Padres at bat during the spring training game against the Seattle Mariners at Peoria Sports Complex on February 24, 2013 in Peoria, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

If there's one player San Diego Padres fans sorely miss in the starting lineup, it's third baseman Chase Headley.  And not only is he missed, but his bat is desperately needed as the Padres struggle to hit and put runs up on the board.  

Headley went down with a broken thumb while sliding into second base while trying to break up a double play during a spring training game on March 17.

Tuesday, Bill Center of U-T San Diego reported that Headley had been given the go-ahead to do as much or as little as he could based on the pain he experienced in his left thumb.  And the news couldn't have been any better for Headley as he reported feeling no pain and passed stress and strain tests with ease.  

Headley told Center:

They pushed and moved the thumb all around. I guess if there was a problem, that’s how they could tell if it wasn’t healing. I felt no pain. I’m going to ramp it up in intensity this week. Today was the first time I swung the bat since I was hurt. I can naturally grip the bat from both sides. The left thumb is just along for the ride when I am swinging.

Not only was he able to hit off of a tee and swing a bat freely without pain, but according to the Associated Press and ESPN, Headley took batting practice Wednesday, hit from both sides of the plate and felt great.  

Headley told the Associated Press:

I'm really happy with the way it felt and really happy with my swing for not having swung in a few weeks, Headley said.  I was really happy with the way the ball came off. But I think most importantly was not having any pain. We just checked another thing off toward being able to come back. We're really getting to the point where now it's like, 'Let's get you in a baseball mode, not just rehab mode.' That's good.

This positive news couldn't have come at a better time since the Padres are severely struggling at the plate and are once again off to a slow and unproductive start.

The team currently ranks 25th in the majors in batting average (.224), 23rd overall in on-base percentage (.294), 26th overall in slugging (.338) and 26th overall in runs scored (23).

Not only are their bats struggling, but their pitching staff can't seem to figure it out, and there isn't a single position player or pitcher who can be classified as excelling or off to a hot start.

Look, I know it's early in the season, and it's too soon to start throwing your hands up and giving up, but let's face it—they look terrible.  Perhaps Headley's return will be just the thing the Padres need to get back on track.  

Remember last season?  As soon as Headley's bat came alive, so did the Padres as a team and wins started rolling in.  

There also isn't a single player on this team that I would classify as an outspoken team leader. Having Headley's veteran leadership back on the field will surely count for something and perhaps revitalize his fellow teammates.  

Though Headley's progress is a good sign and a positive next step to getting him back in the lineup, he will still need to go on a rehab assignment in the minors before being reactivated and will most likely not return until late April or early May.

Regardless of how long it takes for him to come back, his presence has been dearly missed by fans and players alike.  Hopefully, his return will mark a turning point in the season and get some wins on the books for the Padres.

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