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07/03/10 8:22 PM ET

Back strain lands Venable on DL

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres placed outfielder Will Venable on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday with a lower back strain (retroactive to July 2) and recalled outfielder Aaron Cunningham from Triple-A Portland.

Venable has been having troubles with his back throughout the week and has been in and out of the starting lineup. After missing games against the Rockies on Tuesday and Wednesday, Venable started in right field on Thursday against the Astros, but he was a late scratch from Friday's contest after he aggravated the injury in the batting cage prior to the game.

"Thursday [my back] felt fine, and then [Friday] I came to the ballpark feeling fine, did my treatment, and was hitting in the cage and did a couple things that didn't feel right," Venable said. "[I] did some stretching, and it was getting better. And then the last stretch I had to do, I needed to put my shoes on, and just reaching down to my shoes set [my back] off. There are too many little things setting it off, so I've got to back off."

Venable, who has made 54 starts in right field this season, is batting .238 but was starting to make strides at the plate during the past two weeks. He had nine hits in his past 29 plate appearances, including four home runs, before being put on the disabled list.

"I was pretty upset about it, but it's just part of the game," Venable said. "I'm confident that I'll be able to pick up right where I left off with the adjustments [to my swing] I was making. I feel like I'll be fine."

Padres manager Bud Black said the timing of the All-Star break, which begins on July 12, was part of the reasoning behind putting Venable on the disabled list.

"It made sense not to try to either rush him or be impatient when we're looking at four days there at the break," Black said. "This looked to be at least 7-10 days to be playable."

Cunningham was optioned to Portland when Matt Stairs was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, but his stay in the Northwest was short. He played on Friday in Tacoma, going 2-for-2 as the designated hitter, before returning to San Diego in time for Saturday's game.

"I'm waiting for someone to not notice I was even gone," Cunningham joked. "I said hi to my friends [who play for Portland] and came back. I'm happy to be back."

Cunningham is 9-for-31 in 13 games for the Padres this season with a grand slam.

Chris Denorfia made his second consecutive start in right field on Saturday and batted eighth. He went 1-for-3 with two strikeouts on Friday.

Gonzalez out of lineup due to stiff neck

SAN DIEGO -- Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was a late scratch from Saturday's game against the Astros at PETCO Park because of stiffness in his neck.

Gonzalez was originally listed as the starting first baseman and third hitter on the Padres' lineup card but was replaced by Oscar Salazar following batting practice. Chase Headley, who was scheduled to bat fifth, moved into the No. 3 hole, while Salazar hit seventh.

Gonzalez has started 76 of the Padres' 81 games at first base but has missed two contests this week. Gonzalez got the day off on Wednesday against the Rockies, partly because Colorado had left-hander Jeff Francis on the mound, and partly because Gonzalez reaggravated his right shoulder while diving back to third base during Monday's game.

"I really think it's a day-to-day thing. I don't think, right now, that it's anything that could keep him out for any length of time," Padres manager Bud Black said after the game. "We'll see how he is [on Sunday]. These things can resolve themselves overnight. Let's hope that's the case."

Salazar's start was his third at first base this season, with all of them coming in the past two weeks.

S. Hairston turning it on at PETCO Park

SAN DIEGO -- Home sweet home has been good for Padres outfielder Scott Hairston during the past week.

In the Padres' most recent homestand, Hairston has picked up the same amount of extra base hits and 10 times the RBIs that he had recorded in his first 21 games since coming off the disabled list on June 2.

That's not an exaggeration.

Hairston has six hits, three of them for extra bases, in 21 at-bats with 10 RBIs in the Padres' five games this week, compared to his three extra-base hits and one RBI in 77 at-bats from June 2-26.

"I'm feeling a little better and coming around slowly," Hairston said. "I just take one day at a time. I've come up this year many times and didn't get the job done, and it's been disappointing. I'm just doing my job lately, and hopefully I'll continue to do that."

This week, Hairston hit a three-run homer off of National League Cy Young frontrunner Ubaldo Jimenez on Monday and drove in four runs during the Padres' 13-3 blowout victory over the Rockies on Wednesday. But the most important hit probably came on Friday, when he lined a key two-run single to left in the eighth inning to extend San Diego's lead over the Astros to 3-0.

"Scotty has shown during his time as a Padre to be able to get RBIs late in the game," said Padres manager Bud Black following Friday's game. "We've seen some home runs from him late, we've seen clutch hits late. I think Scotty, regardless of the situation, does a good job of staying within himself and keeping to his game plan. He worked the count and got the base hit."

Overall, Hairston is batting .229 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs this season.

Padres wearing Stars and Stripes hats

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres will join the rest of the clubs around Major League Baseball by wearing special "Stars & Stripes" caps during July 4 weekend.

The caps, which the Padres debuted on Friday against the Astros, have the American flag etched into them and are off-white in color with either red or blue brims.

Major League Baseball Properties will donate 100 percent of the proceeds it receives from the sale of the caps to Welcome Back Veterans, which is a program that addresses the needs of returning American Veterans and their families.

Gina Mizell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.