USA TODAY Sports
Before this season, Jerry Hairston had played just a few innings at first base but just in a few weeks, he has a new favorite spot on the playing field.
Jerry Hairston Jr.'s season ended in August last year and he had surgery in September to repair a torn labrum and shave an irregularity in the head of the femur that had caused the injury. But now in March, Hairston says "the hip is great, I'm getting better everyday"
Despite how hard he works at staying in shape he is still surprised that at age 36, he still is ready to play another season.
"I really take care of my body, try to take care of myself, try to give myself the best opportunity, be prepared," Hairston said. "I really know that I have come a long way so I try to stay like this."
Hairston didn't need someone to tell him what a first baseman's glove looked like but he had only played first for a couple of innings before this spring. Despite that limited experience, Hairston exclaimed "I'm going to be honest with you, I kind of like it."
Hairston further explained, "This is the first year I have really gotten a chance to play first and I enjoy it. You're always obviously in the game at every position but [playing first base] kind of saves the legs a little bit."
Hairston's experience in the middle infield made the transition to first base easier.
"I always believed if you can play shortstop, you can play any position on the field because it is so demanding," he said.
One thing Hairston likes about first is that he can do something that other first baseman have done for him all these years.
"The biggest thing is trying to help the infielders out because sometimes you are not going to get a good grip on the ball and you've got to get rid of it, and it is the job of the first baseman to pick up your guys," Hairston says, "I've been able to do that a couple of times and I like being able to do that because I know how difficult it is."
As for where Hairston plays this year, "I don't really don't care," he said, "I have been on a lot of teams and their plan is for me to play a certain position and usually during the season it doesn't work out that way."
Don Mattingly isn't surprised Jerry can play first well.
"I think Jerry is good everywhere, he just knows how to play," Mattngly said. "He's got a pretty good feel for the game, that's the main thing you want from a guy who is going to play there part time, just have a good feel for it, don't try to do anything special, just make the plays you are supposed to make."
Mattingly said that both Hairston and Juan Uribe's ability to make the plays they are supposed to make helps him plan for this year.
"It makes me a lot more comfortable for if we're in a short-term situation at first base," Mattingly said, "That we have a some guys that could do it."
Hairston enjoys first so much he had a lineup suggestion for Mattingly. Hairston said he is going to be "a big advocate when we get to interleague play, that I play first base and have Gonzo DH. That would be great."