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Jon Jay’s Return May Be Near

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Centerfielder Jon Jay has been on the DL since June with a fractured forearm. The cast is off, he’s taking swings and on-field drills. A return shouldn’t be far off.

MLB: New York Yankees at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

When Jon Jay was hit by a pitch back on June 19th, it looked like it hurt, but he stayed in the game. Then he came out of that game two innings later. What was initially diagnosed as a contusion was later determined to be a fractured forearm, and he was placed on the 15-day DL. At the time he was hitting .296/.345/.407 and leading the National League with 24 doubles, while competing with Melvin Upton Jr. for spots on the “Top Plays” highlight reel.

Now that the bone has been verified as fully healed, Jay needs to get his flexibility and strength back after spending over a month in a cast. He’s been doing on-field drills (including drills at first base) and has started swinging a bat. As for a return to play, manager Andy Green said that the first week of September is a possibility.

The Padres have been leaning hard on centerfielder Travis Jankowski and slugger Alex Dickerson since the departures of Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton Jr. With the El Paso Chihuahuas set for a postseason run in AAA, it’s unlikely that Manuel Margot or Hunter Renfroe will be called up early in September as rosters expand. With Jabari Blash potentially going to the DL with a sprained finger, the outfield has been quite thin lately, forcing Green to give starts to Christian Bethancourt and even Ryan Schimpf (who surprised us with a highlight-reel catch of his own). Patrick Kivlehan’s surprise hot start has been encouraging, but with mostly rookies on the current roster, surely Green welcomes Jay’s veteran presence on the field. Jay’s return could give Andy Green some flexibility both to optimize the defense and to rest the young players who have done such a great job filling in.

Playing out the last year of his contract, the Padres might have some incentive to expose Jay to waiver claims. A contender may be interested in a veteran outfielder who can play all three positions, get on base reliably, and hit well situationally. Jay’s profile brings to mind the Will Venable trade that returned Jon Edwards and Marcus Greene Jr last year.

Once Jay is healthy, the outfield picture becomes much more clear. Jay would start most nights in CF, but Jankowski’s energizing bat should keep him in the leadoff slot most nights, starting in RF. Leftfield is Alex Dickerson’s job as long as he continues to swing a hot bat. Former Rutgers safety Kivlehan’s right-handed bat would get swapped in for Jankowski against tough lefties, or for Dickerson’s limited defense in larger parks. Any way you look at it, Jay’s presence in the outfield will be a welcome sight.