09/07/08 2:23 PM ET
Headley testing his late-season legs
For left fielder, playing in September is a new experience
By Nick Zaccardi / MLB.com
"The season seems really long," said Headley, whose previous Minor League campaigns ended at about this time. "Here, you've got the extra month, and this was my first year at big league camp [a month earlier than usual]. It's actually almost two months longer than I've ever gone."
Headley's season, both in the Minors and the Majors, has been dissected more than any other member of the Padres. Clamoring during a sizzling May led to a promotion from Triple-A Portland on June 17. Out went Justin Huber, and in came Headley. The production Friars fans and fantasy leaguers hoped for came swiftly.
Headley homered twice and hit .375 (6-for-16) in his first four games, including a memorable solo shot at Yankee Stadium. Then he hit the up-and-down see-saw that so many young hitters fall into.
"I think he pressed a little bit early, the first 80 to 100 at-bats," manager Bud Black said before Sunday's series finale with the Brewers.
Headley was hitting .245 at the end of July and bottomed out at .235 on Aug. 3. Once teams compiled a beefier scouting report on him, Headley noticed that if one club had success pitching him up and in, the next team would try the same thing. The process repeated until he beat the system.
"Until you make an adjustment, you're going to keep getting [those pitches]," said Headley, who has since raised his average to .266 entering Sunday. "Once you do make the adjustment, then they're going to change it up on you."
September will be a key month for Headley to see what kind of momentum he takes into what could be his first full year in the bigs in 2009. It's been good so far. He had six hits in the Dodgers series, and registered two of the team's five base knocks against Ben Sheets on Saturday.
"Now, I think we're seeing a more comfortable guy in a Major League setting," Black said. "That's showing up in most of his at-bats."
Headley is one of several faces of the club's second-half youth movement.
"You're seeing it right before your eyes," Black said. "This is what we've got. In a lot of ways, it's a great thing. We're getting young players exposed to the Major Leagues; they're learning each and every day. We're able to see what our future holds with these young players."
Six of the Padres' eight starting position players on Sunday joined the team in June or later. Two-thirds of the current rotation wasn't with the club on Opening Day, either.
"It's happened pretty fast; over a couple-month period, this transition has occurred." Black said. "It's a different roster than what we had in April, for sure."
Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.