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Durability important to Headley's success

SAN DIEGO -- It would be nearly impossible to overlook the offensive and defensive accomplishments that Padres third baseman Chase Headley reached in 2012.

He had a career season at the plate -- by far -- reaching career bests with 31 home runs and a National League-high 115 RBIs. Last week, he won a Silver Slugger Award.

Two weeks ago, Headley took home his first Gold Glove Award for his exemplary season at third base.

On Thursday, he'll find out where he finishes among the five finalists for NL MVP.

But if you ask Headley which statistic he's most proud of from the past season, it would likely be this -- 160. That's the number of games that he appeared in, which tied him for the second most among all players in the NL.

"Games played and innings played, I love those ones," Padres manager Bud Black said in September. "You're talking about a six-month season when you want your guys out there a lot. I admire that out of players. He's done that. He's shown durability, absolutely."

Headley also finished seventh among all Major Leaguers in innings (1,399).

"I take pride in that," Headley said. "That's my job -- to play every day. I try to prepare my body so that I can play every day. I think it says a lot that you're able to help the team and that the manager can count on you."

Statistically, at least, Headley was actually a better player later in the season than he was early on. From Aug. 1 on, a span of 57 games, he had a slash line of .318/.389/.632 with 19 home runs and 63 RBIs in his last 220 at-bats.

Defensively, Headley made just two of his 10 errors over that same stretch.

So how was Headley -- the NL Player of the Month in August and September -- able to stay fresh and remain productive at the tail end of the grind of a full Major League season?

"You want to conserve energy when you can, so you can have it late in the season," he said.

To achieve this, Headley altered his in-season routine from where it had been before. He would still get enough work in before games, but found that skipping a round of batting practice on the field before the game or not taking as many ground balls allowed him to stay stronger through the end of the season.

"I think I've learned what my body needs and what it's capable of doing and what amount of reps that it needs each day," Headley said. "I have tried to shorten my routine in the cage and on the field some, taking one less round of BP that other guys do and taking fewer ground balls as the year goes on.

"You still get the reps you need, but you're better able to conserve your energy."

This isn't to say Headley won't tinker with his in-season routine moving forward. But it worked for him this season, his best and most productive as a professional.

"I don't want to say I've found the perfect balance, but I've done a better job than I have in the past," he said.

San Diego Padres, Chase Headley