SAN DIEGO — Padre center fielder Shawn Abner wondered how everything could go so wrong, so quickly.
He was given the starting job in spring training, and the Padres promised they would stick by him. He hit .314 the first two weeks, and everyone in the Padre front office was gloating how Abner was responding.
Then it happened. He went hitless in one game. Then another. And before Abner knew it, he was in a one-for-38 skid, with his batting average plummeting to .171. On Tuesday, he was out the lineup for the third time in the past four days.
He had a private meeting Tuesday before the game with Padre Manager Greg Riddoch, asking when he'd be back in the lineup and how long they'd continue experimenting with Bip Roberts in center field. Riddoch had no answers.
"Sure I'm mad about it, I'd be lying if I wasn't," Abner said. "But I'm not mad at Bip. I'm not mad at Greg. I'm mad at myself. They gave me the opportunity, and I haven't done much with it.
"I can't blame them. Sure, I wish they'd keep running me out there, but we're not winning, and I'm not hitting. I'm just going to have to regroup."
It's unknown what will happen Friday when left fielder Jerald Clark returns from the disabled list. He'll certainly be back in the lineup in left. But will Roberts continue to be in center, or will the Padres have a platoon involving Thomas Howard? And who will be taken off the roster when Clark returns? Will it be Abner? Will it be rookie Kevin Ward? Could it be Darrin Jackson?
"I can't worry about any of that stuff," Abner said. "I've just fallen in a slump at the wrong time. There are other guys in the league who have gotten off to bad starts, but like Greg said, 'Those guys are proven players.' I'm not a proven big-league player.
"I guess the most frustrating thing is that I know people in San Diego don't think I can play. I hear the talk shows and all that. But I know I can play. I really do.
"And I'm going to prove people wrong."
Padre pitcher Atlee Hammaker, who's pitching for Class A High Desert on a rehabilitative assignment, allowed three hits and one run in four innings, walking two and striking out one. . . . The Padres will conclude their home stand at 1:05 p.m. today against the Mets. Ed Whitson (2-3) and Dwight Gooden (3-3) are the scheduled starters. The Padres are off Thursday, and then begin a 10-game trip Friday against the Cincinnati Reds. The scheduled pitching matchups for the series: Bruce Hurst (4-0) vs. Jose Rijo (2-2); Adam Peterson (0-1) vs. Jack Armstrong (3-1); and Andy Benes (1-4) vs. Norm Charlton (1-3).