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Jay back from DL, open to return in 2017

MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- Jon Jay was back with the Padres Tuesday, having been activated after spending more than two months on the disabled list with a right forearm fracture.

The question, however, is whether Jay will be back with the Padres in 2017. The veteran outfielder -- currently in the final year of his contract -- could potentially provide a stabilizing presence in a very young outfield. Both sides have mulled the possibility.

Full Game Coverage

SAN DIEGO -- Jon Jay was back with the Padres Tuesday, having been activated after spending more than two months on the disabled list with a right forearm fracture.

The question, however, is whether Jay will be back with the Padres in 2017. The veteran outfielder -- currently in the final year of his contract -- could potentially provide a stabilizing presence in a very young outfield. Both sides have mulled the possibility.

Full Game Coverage

Before Tuesday's game Jay said returning to San Diego is "something I'd be open to," though he acknowledged it's a question best left for another day.

"I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about that," Jay said. "I've been spending my energy on getting to this point. ... We'll revisit that in the offseason. For now, I'm just looking forward to going out and proving to everyone that I'm healthy and I can still play at a high level."

Jay entered Tuesday's 5-1 loss to the Red Sox in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

In 68 games before the injury, Jay batted .296/.345/.407. He was leading the National League in doubles when he was struck in the forearm by a Gio Gonzalez fastball.

Jay's role upon returning will be immensely different from the one he left in June. Once the everyday center fielder, Jay will now rotate to all three outfield positions, with Travis Jankowski having assumed his old job.

The Padres have committed to a youth movement, and -- until Jabari Blash went down with a hand injury -- they regularly started an all-rookie outfield. That group didn't even include top hitting prospects Manny Margot and Hunter Renfroe, who are on the cusp of breaking through at the big league level.

There's a good chance the Padres' outfield competition next spring features five outfielders with five years of team control remaining. But that doesn't necessarily mean there isn't room for Jay.

"Some veteran presence is definitely needed," said Padres manager Andy Green. "I don't know that it has to be an outfielder. But somewhere along the line on the field and in the clubhouse, you need those veteran guys to be a part of what we're building here.

"We've all expressed desire to have Jon around. But there's a lot between now and then to be determined."

Jay is slated to hit the open market after the season ends, and it seems unlikely the Padres would give him a qualifying offer. In that regard, there will almost certainly be other suitors for Jay, who, at 31, doesn't exactly fit the Padres youth movement.

On the other hand, Jay provides exactly the type of veteran presence Green covets, and he'd be able to play all three positions.

Jankowski, Blash and Alex Dickerson all said they view Jay as something of a coach. During his time on the DL, Jay was as active on the bench as you'll ever see an injured player.

Given the time he's invested in the Padres current crop of young outfielders, it's easy to see why Jay fancies a coaching or player development career after he retires. But he was quick to clarify: "Hopefully I'm playing for another eight to 10 years before we can talk about that."

For now, he's worried solely about his on-field contribution.

"The toughest part was knowing I could make a difference out on the field," Jay said of his injury. "I know I've been making a difference in the dugout, but just making a difference on the field -- I should be out there playing and making a difference that way."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

 

San Diego Padres, Jon Jay