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7/7/2013 12:48 P.M. ET

Rivera grateful to Padres for next chance in bigs

WASHINGTON -- Catcher Rene Rivera made his Major League debut with the Mariners in 2004 when he was 21 years old.

It was the start, he hoped, of a long big league career. Instead, Rivera -- who had his contract purchased from Triple-A Tucson on Sunday -- has gotten something else.

"It's been a journey," said the 29-year-old Rivera. "I've been pretty up and down in my career."

But Saturday, when he was informed he was being promoted to the big league club, was an "up" day for him, even if it came at the expense of another catcher, as Yasmani Grandal went on the 60-day disabled list with damage to ligaments in his right knee.

Grandal suffered the injury Saturday when the Nationals' Anthony Rendon slid into his knee on a force play at the plate.

Rivera, who signed with the Padres in December as a Minor League free agent, was hitting .343 with five home runs with Tucson. He becomes the backup to Nick Hundley.

"This time I feel like I earned it," said Rivera, who played parts of three seasons with the Mariners and in 45 games with the Twins in 2011. "I worked hard all season."

To get to Washington in time for Sunday's game, Rivera flew on Saturday from Tucson to Phoenix, took a red-eye flight from Phoenix to Philadelphia, and then a third flight to Washington. He landed at 9 a.m. ET.

Rivera had an out-clause in his contact where he could have left the organization on June 15 if a better opportunity presented itself. But, he said, loyalty to the organization made it easy for him to stay put.

"I've got to give a lot of credit to San Diego. I had been a backup at Triple-A the last few years, but they gave me the chance to go down and play every day. You have to appreciate that."

San Diego manager Bud Black said the reports on Rivera from his time in Tucson have been good -- his ability to handle the pitching staff and what he's done at the plate.

"The main thing is he's using the whole field," Black said of Rivera. "He's an aggressive hitter. He's not tentative."

Padres: Grandal's injury result of clean play

WASHINGTON -- A day after an incident at the plate left Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal with ligament damage to his right knee, there was no talk at all that the slide by the Nationals' Anthony Rendon was anything but a clean play.

"Those plays are always awkward," said Padres assistant general manager A.J. Hinch, who was a catcher for parts of seven seasons in the Major Leagues. "Those are big men coming into the plate with a lot of force."

Grandal suffered the injury Saturday when Rendon slid into his knee on a force play at the plate. Tests revealed that Grandal has damage to his anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments. He'll have an MRI when the team returns to Petco Park on Monday.

He was placed on the 60-day disabled list before Sunday's series finale against the Nationals, and Rene Rivera was added to the 25-man roster from Triple-A Tucson.

Hinch, manager Bud Black and even Grandal himself essentially chalked the play at the plate up to bad luck more than anything else, even if the intent of the baserunner, generally, is to do what he can to break up a potential double play.

"Any play at home plate or third base or second base, when you have two professional athletes making contact, there's a risk," Black said. "And at home, at times, it can be a little more extreme. You're trying to score a run."

Hinch, who said he never had a situation similar to the one Grandal faced Saturday but had been "run over" at the plate on numerous occasions, said contact plays come with the territory.

"As a catcher, you tend to lose track of where the runner is when the ball is to the right of second base," Hinch said, noting that the throw home by first baseman Jesus Guzman got Grandal leaning up the first-base line. "Your focus is on the ball and trying to get an out."

But, this plays begs a basic question: Is there some sort of professional decorum for baserunners when faced with these kinds of situations?

"You're taught to go hard into the base. As a baserunner, you're not assuming an out there. And there's no base to brace yourself on," Hinch said.

Headley beginning to show encouraging signs

WASHINGTON -- Friday was a good day for Padres third baseman Chase Headley, who hasn't experienced many of those this season.

Headley clubbed a home run and a long double against Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, producing his second game with multiple extra-base hits this year, and his first since April 28.

"Hopefully it's about to break," Headley said.

But as Headley acknowledged, working out a long slump is an especially difficult challenge for a switch-hitter. After dealing with a lefty on Friday, he faced matchups against two tough righties -- Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg -- to close out the series.

"That's the tricky part about being a switch-hitter is you have two completely different swings," said Headley, who went 1-for-4 on Saturday. "So you try to keep the momentum going from both sides, but sometimes one side feels great, the other side doesn't feel as good. So you're always constantly battling with trying to get both sides right."

Headley has hit better from the left side over his career, including his All-Star 2012 season, but he has been feeling more comfortable from the right side of late.

"In a perfect world, the side you're going well from, obviously you want as many at-bats as you can," Headley said. "But that's just the life of a switch-hitter. It's great when both sides are going, but it always seems like you're always a little bit stronger from one side or the other."

Headley set career highs last season with a .875 OPS, 31 home runs and 115 RBIs. This year, he was hitting .222 with a .669 OPS, seven home runs and 28 RBIs through Saturday. In his prior 45 games, he hit .183.

Manager Bud Black pointed to Headley's pitch selection as one reason for that difference. Headley normally excels in that area, Black said, but has expanded his strike zone more this year. Friday's performance was an encouraging sign.

"He's at his best when he's swinging at strikes, taking balls, laying off borderline pitches, having a good feel for the strike zone and controlling the strike zone," Black said. "That's when he's at his best, and that's what I saw [Friday] night. There's been more often than not, over the last week or so, better at-bats in that regard."

Clearly, Friday's game wasn't an instant season-changer for Headley. Things are rarely so simple. But he believes his disappointing 2013 will improve, that a few more balls will start falling in and that better at-bats soon will give way to better results.

"I've done this long enough to know I can hit Major League pitching. I've built a track record," Headley said. "As tough as it is when you're going through it, you just have to know that eventually it's going to turn for you and things are going to start going better."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.