SD@CIN: Alonso's smart relay nabs Paul at second

PHILADELPHIA -- First baseman Yonder Alonso, who hasn't played since Aug. 30 due to soreness in his right hand, has been cleared to play defense and will likely hit in the cage this weekend when the team heads to Atlanta for a series with the Braves.

"I've been throwing the past couple of days and it's still a little sore," Alonso said.

Alonso missed 34 games earlier this season with a fractured metacarpal bone in his hand. He returned from the disabled list on July 12, but the strength in his hand wasn't the same as it was earlier this year when he hit .284 with six home runs in his first 190 at-bats.

After returning from the disabled list in July, Alonso hit .278 with no home runs and four doubles and said he wasn't able to do the same things with his swing that he could before the initial injury.

"Yonder is doing great, he's going to be able to play defense," said Padres manager Bud Black. "We're comfortable with him throwing and are comfortable with him if he has to dive. There's motivation for Yonder to get back on the field."

He's running out of time. After Thursday's series finale against the Phillies, the Padres have only 17 games left in the regular season.

"I'm optimistic about it [returning]. But it's just a matter of time for this thing to heal," said Alonso, who noted that he'll likely have a grip-strength test when the team returns to Petco Park on Monday.

The Padres have used Kyle Blanks at first base, though rookie Tommy Medica -- who hit a home run on Wednesday for his first Major League hit -- got the start there again on Thursday.

Hoffman to work with pitchers full time in new role

Byrnes, Hoffman on Hoffman's new role with Padres

PHILADELPHIA -- Trevor Hoffman is getting back in a Padres uniform, as Thursday he was named the team's upper level pitching coordinator and special assistant to general manager Josh Byrnes.

Hoffman, who turns 46 next month, notched 601 saves over an 18-year Major League career -- with 552 of those saves coming with the Padres from 1993-2008.

This newly created role will see him working with pitchers at the Double-A, Triple-A and big league levels with an eye on communication and preparing younger pitchers for what it will take to succeed in the Major Leagues.

"When we decided to go two hitting coaches, the job had become too big for one person," Byrnes said. "It's the same thought process now. He'll make sure we communicate and do everything we can do to help finish these guys off as Major League pitchers."

Hoffman, who for the past three seasons reported to former Padres president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, will offer more than just mechanical tips and fixes.

"I'm definitely excited about really being more integrally involved with guys pushing the big league level. … It's about finishing some guys off, filling their toolbox with more information so that they can reach the Major League level," Hoffman said.

Randy Smith, the Padres' vice president of player development and international scouting who, oddly enough, was the general manager when the team obtained Hoffman from the Marlins in 1993, thinks that Hoffman is the ideal guy for this job.

"His ability to communicate with [manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley], he brings that instant credibility … it's a natural fit," Smith said. "It's sort of like having two hitting coaches at the big league level. It makes sense. And, he's going to make us better."

Hoffman, who pitched in 2009-10 with the Brewers before he retired, has since been out of uniform, other than stretches in Spring Training and when he helped with Minor League affiliates. But this move, this job, represents a full-time return to baseball.

"I think it's a great thing for us, for Trevor, for our pitchers to have him involved on an everyday basis," Black said. "He likes the ballpark, he likes that environment. It's going to get his juices flowing.

"All the way around, there's a lot of positives."

Padres hosting Tijuana Little Leaguers next week

PHILADELPHIA -- The Padres will hold Hispanic Heritage Night presented by Verizon on Sept. 20 at Petco Park.

The pregame ceremony will include a Hispanic-themed celebration, the Padres' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, honoring of the Comunidad Award winners and also the Tijuana Little League team that advanced to the Little League World Series last month.

National Hispanic Heritage Month -- which runs from Sept. 15-Oct. 15, celebrates the history, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The Padres have long been active in the Hispanic community, working year round with organizations to serve Hispanic youth on both sides of the border. The team also has a community outreach program in the Dominican Republic.

Some examples of Padres players involved include:

First baseman Yonder Alonso, who maintained contact and supported the Little League teams from Eastlake and Tijuana during the Little League playoffs and hosted visits to Petco Park (Sept. 7 for Eastlake and on Sept. 20 for Tijuana).

Catcher Nick Hundley and outfielder Will Venable have been involved with the Monarch School, which serves a high percentage of Hispanic students. Outfielder Carlos Quentin, a San Diego native, also has visited Barrio Logan College Institute.