Hernandez, a former All-Star, started Wednesday and batting eighth in his first game since July 24. After undergoing wrist surgery July 29, Hernandez said he hoped to return by the middle of September, but ended up beating his target date by over a week. He went 0-for-3 in Wednesday’s 4-2 win over the Rockies as San Diego moved six games in front of second-place San Francisco.
“It makes me proud (of) all the work I did to come back sooner,” Hernandez said. “I’ve been out three months. … But I don’t think it’s going to be that hard to get back to playing the way I used to.”
The Padres could use the veteran backstop’s leadership, great defense and clutch bat. They are 29-37 since his initial injury.
Hernandez was on the disabled list from June 22-July 7, and played in 13 games after that stint before electing for surgery to remedy nagging pain in his left wrist dating to June 15, when he tore cartilage diving into first base.
Backup Miguel Olivo has been impressive in Hernandez’s absence.
Olivo, acquired from Seattle for a minor leaguer on July 30, is batting .323 with six doubles, a triple, four home runs and 16 RBIs to go with three stolen bases and 12 runs scored in 93 at-bats.
Mark Loretta homered and scored twice in Wednesday’s win for San Diego, which beat Colorado for only the second time in the last five meetings at Petco Park.
Sunny Kim will start for the Rockies on Thursday, looking to win a fourth straight decision. Kim worked 5 1-3 innings for an 11-3 win over the Los Angels Dodgers on Saturday, allowing one run and six hits.
“I think (I was) lucky,” Kim said. “I really didn’t believe in my stuff, because my mechanics were weird, everything was weird. I always have confidence I can throw strikes, even with 3-0 count. A few walks but after the hitters gave me five runs, it was OK.”