Padres will survive loss of center fielder

As bad news for a contender goes, this could be a lot worse:

    San Diego Padres center fielder Tony Gwynn went on the disabled list Thursday with a broken bone in his right hand.

    Gwynn suffered the injury while fouling off a pitch in Wednesday's game against the Chicago Cubs. The Padres thought he had a sprained wrist, but an examination by a Chicago doctor revealed the break.

Tony Gwynn can't hit. He can do almost everything else.*

* Which is ironic, considering that his father, at the end of his career anyway, really couldn't do anything but hit.

Gwynn did offer hope last season with stats that nearly made him a league-average hitter. But it was probably a mirage, as this season's .212/.313/.299 line tracks reasonably well with his career performance.

Will the Padres miss him? Gwynn had started only 21 games since June, suggesting that management figured his bat wasn't going to come around. But with outfielders Chris Denorfia, Scott Hairston, and Ryan Ludwick all being a) right-handed batters, and b) less than stellar defenders, the club could use a lefty-hitting outfielder ... which presumably is why they've just signed Jody Gerut to a minor-league contract.

Which isn't to suggest Gerut's the answer. He's hardly played this season and hasn't played well since 2008. But with a six-game lead over the second-place Giants, the Padres may be excused for merely tinkering around the edges. They're heading for October, and Gwynn wasn't going to play a significant role then, anyway.