Padres injury watch

The Padres found themselves two relief pitchers short last week. RHP Rudy Seanez was on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder tendinitis. And LHP Chris Hammond was unavailable over the weekend because of a pinched nerve in the back of his neck.

Seanez threw Friday and hopes he will be able to come off the DL when the Padres open a homestand Tuesday. Hammond, meantime, had an X-ray and an MRI Friday that revealed the pinched nerve in the back of his neck.

"It's been bothering me for four weeks," said Hammond, who had given up at least one run in six of his last seven outings to see his earned run average climb from 1.60 to 2.96 in a span of 6 1/3 innings. "I've had it before and it would pinch maybe one time and go away.

"It's never been this bad. I was feeling it 20 to 50 times a day. This was the first day I had medicine for it, and there was a lot of improvement. I'm not going to throw for three or four days and see how it feels."

The Padres were facing more problems at catcher, where Ramon Hernandez's sprained left wrist was not improving as planned.

Hernandez will have the cartilage in the wrist re-examined to see if immediate surgery is required.

"I don't think Ramon is a candidate for the disabled list," said Padres manager Bruce Bochy.

That still causes the Padres problems. Robert Fick is the backup catcher, and the emergency catcher is Phil Nevin. Hernandez's former backup, Miguel Ojeda, was with Triple-A Portland.

Meantime, Hernandez, who missed 18 games on the disabled list after spraining his left wrist while diving back into first base after singling in Minnesota on June 17, has expressed concern that if left uncorrected, the injury could impair his ability to negotiate a new contract as a free agent after this season because clubs would view him as "damaged goods."

Word is Mets' GM Omar Minaya is enthralled with Hernandez. The Mets are free of Mike Piazza's contract at the end of this season. It is also rumored that Hernandez is talking to Scott Boras about becoming his next agent. Boras last year negotiated Carlos Beltran's $119 million, seven-year contract with the Mets.

Adam Eaton said he has noticed improvement in his right middle finger. He has been on the disabled list since straining the flexor tendon between the upper and middle knuckles on the finger June 15 in Detroit.

"The second cortisone shot seemed to help a lot," said Eaton, who was injected last weekend. "This time they put the medicine right into the area where it has been sore. The first time, they put it below the injury. This is the best it has felt."

Bullpen catcher Mark Merila, one of the more popular members of the Padres' traveling party, suffered a seizure Tuesday afternoon while riding the subway from the Padres' downtown hotel to Shea Stadium in New York. He was back in the Padres bullpen Wednesday but not working. He will have an MRI when the team returns to San Diego this week. Merila had a grand mal seizure in 1994 while playing for the University of Minnesota.

All of the Padres' position players were healthy last week, but they still were not hitting -- leaving manager Bruce Bochy with a dilemma.

He needed to get his hot bats in the lineup whenever possible. Wednesday night at Shea Stadium in New York, that proved to be a double-edged sword.

Xavier Nady went 3-for-4 and drove in two of the Padres' three runs against Mets left-hander Tom Glavine. But Nady, playing center over left-handed regular Dave Roberts, lost one ball in the twilight (triggering a three-run Mets rally) and couldn't run down two other drives in the gaps that resulted in two runs in the Padres 7-3 loss to the Mets.

The previous night, Roberts had chased down three balls in the gaps for outs. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. No Nady, no offense. Nady ... less defense.

Nady really doesn't have a position. He has started games at all three outfield positions this season as well as first and third. But those spots all belong to a veteran regular on a daily basis.

Wednesday, for example, was Nady's 28th start of the season in center -- but only his second this month.

"I haven't been out there for awhile, and it makes it tougher," said Nady. "I feel bad about the ball I lost in the twilight."

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