Hairston returns to action for Reds

Hairston returns to action for Reds

TORONTO -- The fracture in Jerry Hairston Jr.'s left thumb probably isn't 100 percent healed. It still gives him some discomfort.

As far as Hairston was concerned, it was ready enough.

"I've played with a whole lot worse," said Hairston, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, as expected. "At this point in the season, players will usually play banged up."

Hairston was in the Reds' starting lineup against the Blue Jays as the shortstop and leadoff hitter. Since he suffered a non-displaced fracture of the thumb on June 9 at Florida while stealing a base, Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker has had to piece together his leadoff spot with several players. Unexpected choices included rookie power hitters Jay Bruce and Joey Votto.

"The hardest guy to find is the leadoff guy," Baker said.

Although he started the year as a Spring Training non-roster invitee and began the season at Triple-A Louisville, Hairston emerged as that guy and an important catalyst while filling in for injured shortstop Jeff Keppinger.

Hairston batted .336 with one home run and 14 RBIs in 40 games. He was batting .362 (25-for-69) in the 17 games before the injury and .397 (25-for-63) in 16 games as the leadoff hitter. The Reds were 18-12 when he was in the lineup.

"He's having a heck of a year," Baker said. "Hopefully the layoff didn't hurt him."

In a three-game rehab assignment at Louisville, Hairston went 4-for-12. He'll be wearing a protective sleeve over his injured thumb, which is on his glove hand. As far as fractures go, he had the type that a player can return from the quickest. It's not expected to affect his hitting much, but Hairston made some minor adjustments.

"It's not my top hand," Hairston said. "I'll try not to think about it and just try to pick up where I left off. There are no excuses. I'm ready to play."

To make room for Hairston, rookie shortstop Paul Janish was optioned to Louisville. After a hot start following his May 14 promotion to replace Keppinger, Janish batted .188 in 31 games and looked overmatched at times while in a 3-for-34 (.088) slump over his last 14 games.

"There are some things he needs to work on offensively," Baker said of Janish. "It's hard to work on stuff and have to produce at the same time. Defensively, he was very good."

Until Edwin Encarnacion returns from lower back spasms, Keppinger will shift over to third base while Hairston plays shortstop.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.