Durable Giles won't push healing quad
Padres veteran outfielder expects to be ready by Opening Day
PEORIA, Ariz. -- On Friday, Padres' right fielder Brian Giles returned to the lineup after missing a week with a strained left quadriceps.
But don't think for a minute that Giles, 38, was going a little stir crazy while sidelined. At best, he's indifferent to playing time in Cactus League play.
"These games mean nothing," Giles said. "The goal here in camp is to be ready for April 6 [Opening Day]. You don't want to do anything stupid to prolong an injury or anything that's going to keep you out. It's best to nip it in the bud here."
This was a lesson Giles learned long ago, and is probably why he's been as durable as he has been -- Giles has played in 140 or more games eight times since 1999 -- in his career.
Giles knows the real test comes on Opening Day and thereafter, which is why he resists pushing his body too hard in Arizona.
"It's just a feel thing," Giles said. "I don't think there's a real timeline. With the extended spring this year, [manager] Buddy [Black] has done a good job of playing guys every other day. ... I'm sure we'll pick that up where guys are playing a few days in a row soon."
Giles won't likely be one of them.
He suffered the strained left quadriceps in a morning running drill and aggravated it in a game early on. Giles played for the first time in a week on Friday and had an RBI single in three at-bats in a 15-6 loss to the A's.
Better still, Black said he came out of the game feeling fine after being tested in the field on several balls.
"He had to break in and to the side for a couple of balls, but he came out of it OK," Black said.
If anything, Giles is used to taking it easy, so to speak, in Spring Training. A year ago, he was coming off offseason microfracture surgery to his right knee. Instead of pushing his body in Spring Training, he backed off and didn't appear in a game until mid-March.
All told, Giles appeared in just nine Cactus League games in 2008, accumulating 23 at-bats. That was perfectly fine for him. Giles understands his body better than anyone and he knows exactly what it takes to prepare.
"You don't want to peak too early down here," Giles said. "The goal is that when you break camp here, you feel 100 percent. It's all about how you feel."
The cautious approach certainly worked well for Giles last season, as his body remained strong and relatively fresh late in the season.
He hit .313 after the All-Star break, hitting .340 in August and .323 in September. His .306 average was his highest since 2000 in Pittsburgh (.315) and his 171 hits were the most since 2004.
Even with a dramatically-reduced payroll this season, Giles' success in 2008 made it relatively easy for the Padres to pick up his $9 million option for 2009.
Consider that Giles had the best contact percentage (92.8 percent) in the Major Leagues in 2008 and that his contact percentage on pitches thrown in the strike zone (96.2) was the second best in baseball.
"This guy really makes our offense go," Padres general manager Kevin Towers said in November. "He's the type of hitter we like to have, especially in this ballpark [PETCO Park]. Each and every day he plays hard, plays a hard right field."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.